Coldwater Visitor Center Request for Expressions of Interest

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is offering a unique opportunity to be a part of America’s volcanic landscape.  The forest seeks proposals from individuals, governmental and quasi-governmental agencies, and non-profit or for-profit organizations and educational institutions for ideas for the re-use of Coldwater Visitor Center.  This solicitation for concepts is called a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI).

Coldwater Visitor Center overlooks Mount St. Helens and is within the Congressionally-designated Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  It is located along State Hwy 504, about 45 miles east of I-5.  Built in 1993, Coldwater Visitor Center is just over 24,600 sq. ft between two floors.

The Forest Service is seeking groups or individuals with creative concepts for re-use of Coldwater VC.  This RFEI is an opportunity to re-imagine how Coldwater is used and managed into the future.  All are encouraged to read through these materials, attend the building tour on June 25, think big, and submit an Expression of Interest.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe.  Created by Congress after the 1980 eruption that radically transformed the landscape, the Monument protects the scientific, geologic, and ecological resources surrounding the volcano.  Nearly 40 years later, scientists still continue to study this area to learn more about volcanic activity and how landscapes recover from disaster.  Most of the Monument’s tourist activity is along the Hwy 504 corridor between I-5 and Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Coldwater Visitor Center Nuts & Bolts

  • Built in 1993 as the (then) closest visitor center to Mount St. Helens. 
  • Physical address is: 19000 Spirit Lake Highway. 
  • About 45 miles from I-5 and 7 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens.
  • Currently used by the Mount St. Helens Institute for educational programs and private event rentals.  The facility is also open to the general public on winter weekends.
  • Building is 24,603 sq. ft. total.  The main floor is 15,636 sq. ft. while the basement is 8,967 sq. ft.- much of which is dedicated to building systems such as HVAC and fire suppression.
  • Features include: Large commercial kitchen, dining room, outside dining terrace, small theater, exhibit areas and atrium, gift shop, offices, large restrooms, parking lot, freight elevator, loading dock, and several basement storage rooms.
  • Main floor is entirely accessible by wheelchair.
  • Fantastic views of Mount St. Helens and close access to Coldwater Lake, which features picnic site, (non-motorized or electric motor) boat launch, accessible trails, fishing, restrooms, and parking.
  • Current annual costs for the Forest Service include $109,000 for maintenance, $23,000 for operations, and approximately $3,303,000 in deferred maintenance.

Current Opportunity & Submission Guidelines    

The forest is inviting public and private entities to submit concepts that would transform the use of the Coldwater Visitor Center, and what it would take to complete that vision.  Submissions are due July 31, 2019.  

A site visit with forest staff is scheduled for June 25, 2019.  During the visit, interested parties will tour the entire Coldwater Visitor Center.  Please RSVP to by June 18, 2019.

Please provide the following in your Expression of Interest:

  1. A cover letter expressing your interest which includes your name, company or organization, and contact information (phone, address, email address).
  2. An explanation of your concept, including the type of use proposed.  Please explain how this use supports the purpose and mission of Monument and Forest Service.
    1. A description of planned improvements
    2. Any additional information or considerations relevant to your concept or experience.
  3. Business and financial considerations.  Address the nature or any partnerships proposed, including the roles and responsibilities of each entity in the proposed use.  Describe the cost of planned improvements and your funding source.
    1. If a permit is issued, a fee will likely be charged.  The fee can be for items such as covering the cost of administering the permit, functioning in lieu of rent, or funding a share of building maintenance.
    2. Proposals should not be contingent upon the availability of Forest Service funds.

Questions about the RFEI

Have a specific question?  Please submit to  All questions and answers will be posted on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest website.

This opportunity is part of the forest's commitment to creating a sustainable recreation program.  Learn more here.


While this RFEI is open to many opportunities, there are a few restrictions.  Uses that include gambling, adult entertainment, livestock use, federally illegal drugs, or associated activities are prohibited.  For a full understanding of restrictions please review the US Code of Federal Regulations, US 36 § 251.  For more about this RFEI, please read the full narrative RFEI

Coldwater Photos


Coldwater VC RFEI