December 2003

Friends of Mount Hood Newsletter
December, 2003

It is time for an update on our efforts to protect Mount Hood from overdevelopment. In addition to the enthusiastic plans for excessive, damaging development at Mount Hood Meadows (MHM), we now have the serious battle for protecting the remaining wild lands of the north side. As you know, the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition has been formed, a group of 15 concerned organizations to oppose a destination resort near Cooper Spur Ski Area.

First, the north side issues: We have always supported the small Cooper Spur Restaurant, as well as the modest Cooper Spur Ski Area with its T-bar and rope tow. However, the major expansions planned by Mount Hood Meadows North (MHMN) for a resort in this area are a major concern.

This is a questionable place for a major destination ski resort. Winter snow is marginal, and except for the existing practice hill, the terrain is poor. The development would impact an important wild life corridor and habitat. The mass-market commercialism of a resort would seriously impact traditional historic and treasured back-country use and adjacent wilderness, as well as the Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane Historic Area. There is also a major concern for the protection of Crystal Springs Watershed. Hood River County has traded almost a square mile to MHMN, that lies in the Crystal Springs Watershed. We maintain that this trade was notoriously poor public policy. This is being challenged in court.

In our last letter (Dec., 2002) we encouraged people to attend the Hood River County Planning Commission hearings on Goal 8 of the Oregon statutes pertaining to destination resort mapping. This mapping process determines whether the MHMN Cooper Spur private land qualifies as a destination resort site. The main criteria are: (1) owning 160 acres (2) positioned at least three miles from a concentration of high-valued farmland.

We hope that you attended. The hearings were a sensational success for our coalition. So many people came to the first hearing on January 22, 2003, that not all could be admitted. Two additional hearings were held in a larger hall. Testimony was overwhelmingly opposing a destination resort at Cooper Spur.

Almost a year has passed. The Planning Commission has not given a recommendation to the County Commissioners. There were so many errors in the consultant’s mapping of farmland, that the mapping had to be redone.

So it’s all hanging there over our heads, but kind of slowed down from the time-line of the former County Commission Chairman who let it be known that he wanted to site a destination resort before he left office late in 2001.

Meanwhile, in a series of presentations to the community, MHMN has been promoting a “kinder, gentler, greener” image. They would have us believe that they can develop an environmentally sensitive real estate development, essentially a small city on the north slope of the mountain. This would include 450 units of housing, an upscale shopping village, and much, much more. Of course, this includes extensive ski area expansion on pristine slopes at the Cooper Spur Ski Area.

But today’s ski industry, unlike the ski areas of the old rope tow days, takes a heavy toll of mountain resoursces and beauty. Downhill Slide, a book by Hal Clifford, is a study of the current ski resort industry. He writes: “Skiing has morphed from a more or less environmentally benign outdoor experience into a destructive, extractive industry.” In the chapter From Rope Tows to Real Estate, he writes: “Skiing is no longer an end to itself … instead, skiing has been transformed into a come-hither amenity to sell real estate.” Later, “The ski industry appears committed to an aggressive spin campaign to portray itself as environmentally friendly in the face of countervailing facts.”

We have ample documentation to support Clifford’s statements from our experiences with MHM. Futhermore, at Cooper Spur Ski Area extensive soil disturbance and erosion damage has occurred since MHM has taken over the operation of the ski area.

Friends of Mount Hood has purposely supported Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition taking the spotlight in the battle to deal with these new threats to Mount Hood. We believe the coalition is a strong, new force for fighting overdevelopment.

Friends of Mount Hood is still heavily involved with the MHM Ski Area. During the summer we accompanied the new Hood River District Ranger, Daina Bambe, on several field trips at the ski area to discuss issues and problems. We have been encouraged with her interest. But two recent issues at MHM have caused concern. They have carved a huge new super halfpipe into the mountainside on the beginner-intermediate slopes. We feel that the USFS shortcut the required environmental analysis, considering the fact that the halfpipe disrupted the drainage pattern above wetlands, and there is visual blight as well as possibility of serious erosion.

We have also been concerned about 60 Landrovers being allowed to practice-drive their off-road vehicles at MHM. This was allowed by the Forest Service, but in our view it shows little respect for the high altitude environment, wildlife, and hikers on the Timberline trail. There should be better places for this type of activity.

And, we still have our hands full with continuing efforts by MHM to put more lifts and hardware higher on the mountain with more damage to the rare and fragile ecosystem and more visual blight. All of this does not paint a kinder, gentler, greener picture of MHM. It does not support the rhetoric by MHMN that they could establish a sensitive(?), environmentally-friendly(?) destination resort at Cooper Spur.

Some positive notes: We felt that the Mount Hood Summit held at Timberline Lodge by Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Greg Walden was a heartening event.

And, an inspiring accomplishment was organized by a recently formed group in the Hood River Valley. Signatures were gathered and an initiative was placed on the November ballot for a county-wide vote. This initiaive stated that any development of 25 or more housing units in the county land zoned as forest land would be put to a vote by the people. This passed by a county-wide vote of 61.5% to 38.5%. It passed in the upper valley by almost 70%. This is a stunning victory. It should give some politicians and promotors pause for further thought.

You can see that there is a lot going on! The coming year should be critical for the future of Mount Hood. We would greatly appreciate a donation to continue our efforts.

Kate McCarthy, Chair, Friends of Mount Hood
PO Box 293, Mount Hood, OR 97041
(541) 352-6228

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