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Ashland council gathers ski area views

ASHLAND ' The Ashland City Council heard from a stream of opponents and supporters of the proposed Mount Ashland ski area expansion in preparation for making a council comment on the controversial proposal.

The Tuesday night public hearing lasted past 10 p.m. as the overflow crowd voiced conflicting values.

Ashland resident Bryan Holley urged the council to exert its influence on the U.S. Forest Service, which released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on expansion options in July and has the authority to approve an expansion.

As the City Council, you have the power to not be wagged like the tail on the dog. You be the dog, Holley said.

— The council has yet to decide whether it will submit a comment to the Forest Service, and will hold discussions on the content of any comment at its next regular council meeting on Tuesday.

The Medford City Council already passed a resolution in favor of an expansion earlier this month, and the three-member Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the action Tuesday morning, Commissioner Sue Kupillas told Ashland council members.

She noted new Commissioner David Gilmour, a doctor, had expressed concerns over increasingly crowded conditions at the ski area that lead to injuries.

Jackson County has a growing population and a growing number of people are using Mount Ashland, Kupillas said.Medford resident and skier David Spear, advocating an expansion, echoed concerns about safety on the mountain.

I feel like when I'm at the ski area I need to stay with my sons and guard them. My wife has severely cut back her skiing because of safety issues, Spear said.

But for many others, the safety of the city's municipal water supply was more of an issue.

They questioned Forest Service conclusions that, with proper mitigation measures in place, expansion would have minimal effects on the city's water.

Still others voiced concerns about environmental impacts to old growth trees, the McDonald Peak Roadless Area and rare plants and animals.

Ashland Parks and Recreation Commissioner JoAnne Eggers, who is active with local conservation groups, asked audience members to imagine a swath cut through trees equal to the distance from Tolman Creek Road to Mountain Avenue ' the 1.4 mile length of a planned ski run.

I just want you to picture that happening in a beautiful, pristine area, Eggers said.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456.