WALLOWA LAKE — Leadership at the Wallowa Lake Lodge is hoping to have a new, improved and expanded deck completed by next month — just in time for the start of the new season.

It’s the latest improvement at the lodge, and one that became a clear need last year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced business outside.

“It became really apparent last year when we had to move outside as much as possible because of coronavirus to stay open,” said Madeline Lau, general manager of the lodge. “We had to limit our capacity in the dining room by half, so we could only get 42 people. Also with the views and the ambiance and the beauty of our location, people want to be outside anyway. It became apparent our deck had some structural issues last year.”

Lau isn’t quite sure when the deck was assembled for the 98-year-old lodge, but thinks it was possibly built during a major renovation to the building in 1988.

Lau said the old deck was ripped out during the winter, and the rebuild started April 5.

The new deck will have a bowtie design and, at roughly 2,000 square feet, will be about 30% larger than the one it’s replacing. The new deck will be built of cedar, and will include posts made of locally sourced juniper, juniper burls at the entry and a stainless-steel tension cable for the railing. The deck is being built by local community members.

The hope is to have the deck completed by May 21, in time for the lodge’s opening on May 28.

“It’s our goal to make the most beautiful deck in Eastern Oregon and a place where everyone is welcome,” she said.

It’s a season where Lau hopes to see a vision of the lodge being used by both locals and tourists. The local community has sustained the historic place and saved it five years ago.

“We are announcing that I want the community to use the lodge in a much bigger way,” she said.

Lau said in the past, the lodge has been more of a destination for tourists, and the locals have wondered about the accessibility to them.

“It is my goal to make the lodge as accessible as possible to the widest variety of guests and customers, but also to see the community use the lodge more than they have before,” she said. “I want this to be a gathering place, I want the community to feel very welcome here. For a long time the lodge was set apart and felt almost inaccessible. We want to be a place that the community uses.”

Among the adjustments this season, which will run through Oct. 31, are restaurant hours being changed, and now being from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It will have a happy hour from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, and a brunch from 8-11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The restaurant will have a “Scandanavian-inspired menu,” Lau said.

There also is a plan to have live musicians on the deck from 5-7 p.m. Friday nights, and pianist Gail Swart will play Sundays from 6-9 p.m. in the dining room.

With the deck coming in at about double the expected price due to a spike in lumber prices, the lodge has launched a gofundme.com page to help with the additional expenses. The page has a goal of $15,000.

“Initially, the cost of the deck was half of what it now is, so we can use community support to get us there. Any little bit helps,” Lau said.

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