HAUGAN, MT – A group of forty Passport in Time (PIT) volunteers ranging in ages from four to 80, spent last week caring for the Savenac Historic Tree Nursey located on the Superior Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest. Volunteers have been coming to Savenac for 24 years to maintain, repair, and restore the historic nursery.
Savenac was originally built in 1907 by Elers Koch, the first Forest Supervisor of the Lolo National Forest. At the height of production, Savenac supplied nearly 12 million seedlings annually to the surrounding area with the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Although partially burned down by the fires of 1910, and rebuilt again overtime with the help of the CCC in the 1930’s, the location has stood the test of wildfire and time.
“It all started with a bucket of paint.”
Today, Savenac is an idyllic visitor destination and a place to learn about the past. Carole Johnson, long time local and Superior District Ranger, had a vision 24 years ago to restore Savenac and recognized the potential of the location for education, interpretation and recreation. In doing so, Johnson created the longest-standing PIT volunteer project in the country with the help of the Friends of Savenac non-profit, a few volunteers the first year, and a ‘bucket of white paint.’
Since the first year, volunteers have come back to the site annually to lend a hand in care of the 65-acre property and facilities which earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Given this designation, repairs and restoration are made in line with the National Historic Preservation Act and in the Tudor and Craftsman styles of the original buildings.
Devon Gibbs, age 22 from Springfield, Missouri and a returning PIT volunteer to Savenac, stated about his recent experience, “I like to come back to Savenac and see the familiar faces of the volunteers every year; everyone has a great sense of pride and determination in their work here. We come from all across the country, and the beauty and history of this place keeps us coming back every year.”
Passport in Time, a volunteer cultural heritage resources program sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, places volunteers to work with professional archaeologists and historians across the country on special projects. Many of the Passport in Time volunteers who come to Savenac have been coming back to the site for several years to contribute to its care and restoration.
“There is a great sense of comradery among the volunteers,” said Carole Johnson, District Ranger. “These folks really love this place, and they love coming back every year to work together and contribute to the history of Savenac.”
This year volunteers focused on basic repairs and maintenance, tree replanting, painting, window glazing and restoration, door restoration and replacement, and landscaping. Savenac is maintained in partnership with the Friends of Savenac, a non-profit dedicated to its preservation, the Savenac hosts, the PIT volunteers who come here annually, and Forest Service staff. Additionally at Savenac, cottages located on the grounds are available through the popular Lolo National Forest rental program by visiting www.recreation.gov. Money collected from the rental program is reinvested back into the facility maintenance and operations at Savenac.
The compound serves as an interpretive center, where the public can experience some of the history of the region and better understand the continuing role the Forest Service has played in the American West. The Savenac visitor center is open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and on Sundays from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information please call the Superior Ranger District at (406)-822-4233 or follow the Friends of Savenac Facebook page here.