Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ten Year Plan

Why is a Winter Use Plan necessary to add or replace any winter recreation activity, but access, tubing, and the Waterhole Hut can be removed without it?

The answer du jour from ONP regarding Hurricane Ridge is that a Winter Use Plan is in the pipeline, and (name the issue) will be addressed in the WUP, which will include a public process.  The catch?  There is no funding for the plan, so it will be ten years before it is completed.

First, some history. The HRWSC, which operated the three surface lifts at the ridge, is operating two rope tows that have been in place since 1958, and the Poma since 1968.  All three lifts are well beyond their life expectancy.  The ski club recognizes the need for replacement, and was told in the 1990's that the General Management Plan would provide guidance for the Park Service to determine the future of downhill skiing on the Ridge.  The problem was that the GMP process took 10 years to complete, finally entered into the Congressional Record in late 2008.

The public comments and GMP came out clearly that improvements to the lifts would be allowed.  During those ten years of process, weekday access to the Ridge decreased from open, to as staffing and weather allow, to closed.  The tubing area was eliminated, and now the Waterhole Cabin destroyed.  Meanwhile, in 2006 the Friends of Olympic National Park made a series of suggestions to improve winter recreation.  One of the suggestions was to do a WUP to allow public input to how winter at the Ridge should operate.

Based on the results of the GMP, the ski club put together numerous proposals for lift improvements, starting as soon the the GMP was completed in 2008.  In late 2011, the Park stated that due to two significant events since 2009 (the closure of the snowplay area and discovery of Native artifacts in the meadow) a Winter Use Plan would be required before any lift improvement plan could be evaluated.  At the time, they said this would be a two or three year project.

Mayor Cherrie Kidd, a strong proponent of seven day access, was quick to point out that with that time frame, the seven day access trail should be allowed to continue until the WUP was complete.  That would allow a longer data collection period, and presumably the public comments would favor continued seven day access.

When the Park heard that idea, they quickly lengthened the estimated project completion time to ten years.  By that time, the existing lift system will no longer be functioning.  Meanwhile the Waterhole Hut has been removed, we are back down to weekend only access, and the Park wants to replace the Intermediate area with tubing.

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