Scotty’s Castle may not reopen until early 2020, according to Death Valley Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds, although officials are still aiming for late 2019.
Reynolds and park employee Abby Wines were in Beatty April 24 to talk about the restoration project for the flood-damaged facility and to gather public input. The massive flash flood of October 18, 2015, caused extensive damage to buildings, utilities, and landscape at Scotty’s Castle and wiped out the access road in both directions.
As proposed, the restoration project will cost some $49 million, including the work on the road. Reynolds said, “It is the most costly natural disaster to a national park that Congress did not fund.”
Some of the money for the restoration is coming from deals made with other parks to use some of their funding. They also made a deal to keep 100 percent of entry fees as long as the money only goes for the Scotty’s Castle project.
One of the ongoing costs is paying for storage of the historical collection associated with Scotty’s Castle. These items must be stored in a climate-controlled environment for preservation. The same is true for furnishings and other items from the castle itself.
All restoration work has to be historically accurate—true to the time period when the castle was built and when the Johnsons lived in it. Some structures that are not original are slated to be removed, and a couple that are not being actively used are to be “mothballed,” with only exterior repair.
As part of the restoration, the castle will get new heating and air conditioning, upgraded utilities and fire suppression equipment. They also plan to remodel the parking lot, construct new public restrooms, and make other improvements.
Jerry Hammes said it was “absurd” not to have gas available at Scotty’s Castle because many visitors arrive there from some distance away. Wines said that was a good suggestion. The facility that used to be there was removed years ago because it leaked. She also said that Scotty’s Castle has not proven profitable for private concessionaires.
Richard Stephens is a freelance writer living in Beatty.