Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October updates

Check FreeHurricane Ridge on facebook at

Port Angeles Mayor Cherrie Kidd, City Manger Dan McKeen, and Greg Halberg participated in a conference call with National Park Service Comptroller Bruce Sheaffer in August.

Mr. Sheaffer acknowledged that the two year trial period was due to the intervention of Congressman Norm Dicks, who is a long time friend of the Park Service. He stated that our request would be easier if the Park Service were in a normal budget cycle, but because of both the uncertainty due to the elections and lack of budget resolutions in Congress, and an overall tight budget fulfilling our request would be difficult. We did not mention that the access was reduced during an expanding budget period.

We presented to him portions of the data on this blog, including how Hurricane Ridge compares to visitation in other parks, the NPS's visitor spending model, and a different way of looking at the visitation number than ONP presented. Mr. Sheaffer said the presentation was impressive and that he would examine our data at the regional level.

Since then we have heard nothing, Cherrie was scheduled for a conference call in September, but it was cancelled by Mr. Scheaffer at the last minute.

The first year of the program had a deadline of August 1 to hire and train the additional staff, and still the staff were not ready until after the New Year, so it does not look good for the upcoming winter.

Letters to all the politicians involved are still helpful. Contact info here

The Winter Sports Club, which operates the ski area at Hurricane Ridge, is in need of replacing its antiquated equipment. The idea was broached with the park as early as the 2000's. The response at that time was that the Park was conducting a General Management Plan (GMP), and the ski club should wait until that was complete before submitting any proposals. The GMP was completed in 2009, at which time the club went to the park with various alternatives for lift improvements. In 2011 the answer from the Park was that the Park needs to complete a Winter Use Plan for Hurricane Ridge before they can evaluate any ski area improvements proposal. During our first meeting Todd Suess said that the project could take two to three years to complete.

Cherrie Kidd suggested that the NPS should continue to fund seven day a week access until the Winter Use Plan was complete, assuming that seven day a week access would be one of the items on the winter use agenda. At that time Mr. Suess stated that it was more likely that the Winter Use Plan would not be completed for seven to ten years.

Meanwhile, at ONP, staff destroyed the popular Waterhole Cabin in September 2012, because it was "unsafe." This is a further direct hit to winter recreation in Olympic National Park. The ski club proposed in 2010 a plan to place removable winter only ski huts along the non-wilderness road corridor, which included taking over management of the Waterhole Hut if desired by ONP. There was no mention at that time that the Waterhole Hut was on the soon to be removed list. The proposal was rejected by ONP because it amounted to an expansion of the ski area. Which is a little bit of a silly point, because another group could have done the same plan just as well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Backcountry Closed:

Short of a miracle intervention by someone higher up in the Park service, Hurricane Ridge will be closed Mondays through Thursdays for 2012-2013.

Perceptions versus Reality:

ONP Claim: Seven day winter access was a failure

Fact: The two years of the experiment resulted in an average increase of 10,578 more winter visitors over the previous two years, an increase of 35%.

ONP Claim: Winter use is an insignificant sub population of users compared to other spending priorities.

Fact: The winter use period accounts for 16% of the annual visits to Hurricane Ridge. Winter visits to Hurricane Ridge is about the same as annual backcountry overnights.

ONP Claim: Seven day winter access is too expensive

Fact: Other winter areas with similar conditions are able to keep roads clear 24/7 for less cost

Mount Baker in 2012

ONP Claim: Costs outweigh the benefits

Fact: Using NPS’s MP3 model visitor spending was more than costs. Hurricane Ridge is one the most efficient NPS winter areas in terms of dollar per visitor, more so when visitor spending is accounted for. In addition, there are benefits beyond visitor spending, such as quality of life, and recirculating local dollars.

ONP Claim: Almost all visitors are local.

Fact: License plates from 27 states were observed in 2012. Also, this is accounted for in the MP3 model.

ONP Claim: Park crews are as efficient as possible

Fact: Independent study finds methods to save tens of thousands of dollars using accepted practices in winter use areas.

ONP Claim: Hurricane Ridge is not viewed as a winter park

Fact: Hurricane Ridge attracts more winter visitors than Crater Lake, Lassen, Sequoia, as well as open segments of Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks.

ONP Claim: Hurricane Ridge requires 5 full time Rangers to staff safely

Fact: Lake Crescent is staffed with three Rangers for 273,330 winter visits with similar risks.

ONP Claim: Extreme weather causes road to close

Fact: Closed days averaged 5.3” of snow in 24 hours, 15 mph average winds for 24 hours, and a peak one hour average of 26 mph.

ONP Claim: Avalanche hazard on the road is high

Fact: Using the Simplified Avalanche Hazard Index which is based on the number and frequency of avalanches per traffic indicates low or very low threat to the road. A full assessment could be done by an expert, but has not been requested by ONP.

ONP Claim: Reinstalling gates at Third Peak and or the Slot is not feasible due to lack of turnaround

Fact: Turnaround at the Switchback trail head is 90’ in diameter; 75’ at the Slot. Existing turnaround at the lodge is 75’.

ONP Claim: Reinstalling gates at Third Peak and or the Slot is not feasible due to lack of parking.

Parking below the switchback trail head
Fact: At least 50 parking spaces are available at Third Peak, more are available on paved pull outs above Third Peak.

ONP Claim: Reinstalling gates at Third Peak and or the Slot is not feasible due to lack restrooms

Fact: Outhouse facilities are required for Washington State Winter Recreation Program SnoParks and installed and maintained at minimal cost.

ONP Claim: Downhill skiing is an activity that requires extensive development with resulting significant environmental impacts.

Fact: The downhill facilities at Hurricane Ridge disturb less than 1,000 square feet of land.

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