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Wolf Creek Inn set to reopen

WOLF CREEK — Shuttered to visitors since 2014, the historic Wolf Creek Inn is expected to reopen for overnight guests and daytime visitors May 1.

Details are still being worked out, but plans call for state parks employees and volunteers to run operations, with the inn's restaurant remaining closed. Attempts to find a private manager have been unsuccessful.

"We had difficulty finding a concessionaire that was a good fit for that park," said Nathan Seable, Oregon State Parks manager for the site. "We've decided we needed to do something to get that opened."

The expected opening — a formal announcement has yet to be made — is welcome news for this unincorporated rural community 25 miles north of Grants Pass, which benefited from the many visitors who pulled off of nearby Interstate 5 to take in a bit of yesteryear.

"I really missed having it open," town postmaster Debbie Roberts said. "From what I can tell, everybody misses having it open."

The inn, also known as the Wolf Creek Tavern, dates back more than 130 years, to the early 1880s, about the time of the coming of the railroad to Josephine County. It's been closed since the fall of 2014 for overhauls of heating, air conditioning and fire-suppression systems.

Former concessionaire Margaret Quist of Sunny Valley said she and her husband, Mark, stepped away after six years as the concessionaire when construction took too long.

She remembers weddings, celebrations and other events there, including quilt shows. Family members helped in the restaurant.

"We loved it," Quist said. "Wonderful memories. It was hard to walk away."

But it was hard to make a living at a venture so dependent on seasonal traffic. During the winter, Quist sometimes had but one room rented, and would serve only one meal in an entire day.

"The restaurant never really paid for itself," she said. "Summers were always good, but usually the summer profit wasn't enough to get us through the rest of the year."

Quist said she would have been happy with it opening as a museum, if nothing else. She still maintains a social media site about the inn.

"I'll see cars there all the time, with people peeking in the window," she said. "It's hard on the community. That's such a tiny community, when something that draws people is gone, it's something that's felt by the community."

Seable expects the building to be open as a museum and for overnight room rentals, with a park ranger on duty weekdays and a volunteer park host on site for overnights. Reservations for room rentals might begin in mid-April. A formal announcement about the park's reopening is in the works.

Park Ranger Ed Johnson was at the inn Friday taking care of landscape maintenance and getting things ready. There's dusting to do and linens to refresh, along with contracts to sign for housekeeping and linen service. A park host will have to be found to live in an RV trailer out back.

Johnson, a Glendale resident who has worked at the site for seven years, said room prices are yet to be determined, and he wanted it made clear that the restaurant would not be open.

"I don't want folks to be disappointed," he said.

The inn, restored by the state in the 1970s, features two parlors, a small room where author Jack London and his wife stayed while he wrote, and a small room of historic photos and pieces.

Each of the nine guest rooms has a private bath. The inn's landscaped grounds stretch to nearby Wolf Creek, with picnic tables available for public use.

Johnson expects to have the inn open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 15, during the community's annual Easter parade and celebration.

"The community's pretty excited about the place opening again," he said.

— Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or shall@thedailycourier.com

Wolf Creek Inn is expected to reopen for overnight guests and daytime visitors May 1. [Mail Tribune / File Photo]