STATE PARKS -- The Washington Parks and Recreation Commission will meet in Spokane this week to consider a long-debated proposal to expand the downhill ski area footprint in Mount Spokane State Park -- but not before the public gets one more chance to chime in on the issue:
- A public meeting for public comment on the proposed action is set for Wednesday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College in the Student Union Building Lounge.
- On Thursday, the commission will consider the proposal during a meeting starting at 9 a.m. at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.
Brad McQuarrie, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park general manager, has been making the case for the expansion for nearly a year.
A coalition of outdoor and conservation groups has been presenting the opposition view of the expansion proposal.
Here's a story by SR reporter Becky Kramer regarding compromise proposals from state parks staff.
Read on for more details -- and the observation of one backcountry skier who hasn't joined the ranks of conservationists who have automatically opposed a new lift on the west side of the mountain.
Mount Spokane 2000 has proposed the ski expansion as important to the ski area's ability to compete and remain a viable business and destination for local skiers.
Proponents say the new ski runs will take advantage of some natural openings in the slopes and logging will be done in winter by snowcat to minimize disturbance to the land and wildlife.
They say that thinning swaths in some of the forest and cleaning up blowdowns will open a good skiing for intermediates while providing easier Ski Patrol access to the rescues occasionally needed on the backside of the mountain.
The Lands Council, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other groups and agencies have cited concern ski area expansion impacts to the native forest and the wildlife corridor the "back-side" of the mountain provides year-round.
Streams and wetlands would be affected, and erosion is likely, they say.
Better to improve and upgrade the existing area and infrastructure before carving out more area to maintain, they say.
BACKCOUNTRY SKIER COUNTERPOINT
While most backcountry skiers and snowshoers have sided with conservation groups opposing the ski area expansion, veteran skier Dan Schaffer of Spokane had a different viewpoint. Here are excerpts from his formal letter to the Spokane Mountaineers.
While I agree with your contention that Mt. Spokane has a lot of work to do on its current infrastructure, especially the lodges, I think it is a natural part of managing a community resource as valuable as the Mt. Spokane ski area to consider expanding it to accommodate current and future use.
The area of concern cannot be considered, by anyone's criteria, to be a pristine wilderness. It already has roads, has been logged, is immediately adjacent to an operating ski area, and, by your own admission, is actively used by skiers who have purchased lift tickets who then use the lower road to return to the bottom of Chair 4.
I have worked with the Mt. Spokane ski patrol as a physician and been informed that the area does create periodic problems for the entirely volunteer patrol.Those whose primary interest is unspoiled backcountry terrain would not consider this parcel to be of any attraction, and those who just want untracked powder are welcome to hike the entire mountain on Mondays and Tuesdays when the lift operations are closed.An additional advantage to the expansion would be thinning of the current vegetation to lower the risk of forest fires. Proper forest management also makes the area more conducive to species habitation and migration.I am a strong advocate of wilderness, a backcountry skier, and I love Mt. Spokane.I am not an advocate for the expansion, but neither do I oppose it. I can live with whatever the state decides to do.