Big Creek’s Big Move Towards Energy Conservation

Read about new member Brian Dao’s outlook on his new service project:

For the next six months Big Creek Outdoor Education Center will be my home. This camp sits next to Big Creek, which feeds directly into the North Fork of the Flathead River. The North Fork is a 153-mile tributary beginning in British Columbia, Canada and extends south into Montana’s Flathead National Forest. Directly across this river is Glacier National Park. It is a remote area. The roads can be rough, but they lead camp and it makes it all worthwhile.

Some of the buildings at Big Creek date back to the late 1920’s and none are less than 40 years old. All have that rickety old charm you would imagine. Big Creek is a place for children to come and learn about all that the backcountry has to offer and learn and appreciate the beauty of Montana’s national forest. This was not always the case. Before The Glacier Institute acquired the buildings to provide outdoor education, Big Creek served as a USFS ranger station and fire management camp.

camp photo 1The cabins and halls were built to be sturdy and utilitarian. Big Creek has always maintained an off the grid setting. Propane stored in three very large tanks provides the main fuel source for the heating, water heating, and generators. A new solar array with battery storage is now being used to supplement the electrical demands. Recently, the education center was designated a National Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. These buildings have gone through many improvements and renovations throughout the years to maintain a high quality of usability. Overall though, there has been very little done to improve their energy efficiency.

The buildings have a lot of potential and there is a lot that can be done. It will be small changes at first, as a major element will be to maintain their rustic ranger station veneer. With the Glacier Institute’s shared enthusiasm, we plan to start with weatherization improvements on each of the six most heavily used cabins and halls. When completed, these buildings will also provide examples for children and visitors to the camp on simple energy conservation improvements that can be applied at photo 2

It is now the beginning of the season at Big Creek and it’s going to be a very busy time until camps end in October. As we begin welcoming more and more students to camp, I am anxious to find my way and get started. I hope my time spent at Big Creek will be the start of a new approach for the camp on improving their energy conservation.

bdao profile picBrian Dao graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. He gained experience through an internship with a Portland based sustainability consulting firm where he completed building analyses on large scale LEED commercial buildings. Brian was introduced to AmeriCorps programs while serving with the Great Basin Institute as a trail crew member in 2014. Brian currently serves with the Glacier Institute in Polebridge, MT where he evaluates the energy performance of existing buildings, identifies opportunities for energy efficiency upgrades, researches renewable energies and the potential for application, and develops energy curriculum and provides education and outreach.


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