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No decision yet on ski permit

After listening to about 40 area residents, the Ashland City Council ran out of time on Tuesday night to decide whether to give up its permit for the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.

The council will take up the issue again during a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

The Mt. Ashland Association, a nonprofit group that runs the ski area, believes it would be more effective in raising funds for a planned ski area expansion if it holds the permit.

The association has said it needs to raise $300,000 to pay for ski run clearing, and a total of $3.5 million for the first and most significant phase of the expansion.

Opponents of the ski area expansion have said the city of Ashland would lose what control it has over the ski area if it gives up the permit.

Most of the people at Tuesday's meeting urged the City Council not to relinquish the permit.

"It's really a question about good governance," said Tonya Graham, executive director of the Ashland-based Geos Institute, which helps communities deal with climate change.

She said the City Council needs to protect natural resources.

Resident Darwin Thusius said the Mt. Ashland Association board of directors is not elected, while the City Council is. He said the city's control over the permit is one way to inject democracy into the issue of the ski area's expansion.

The city of Ashland ended up as the ski permit holder after a regional fundraising effort in the early 1990s to save the ski area from closure. Fundraising organizers needed a fiscal agent and the city of Ashland stepped forward.

Although it holds the permit, the city of Ashland does not have the authority to decide whether the expansion will move forward.

That decision has been in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service and the courts.

The Forest Service is in the midst of an internal review of objections filed against its previous decision to approve the expansion. If the Forest Service upholds its own decision, the Mt. Ashland Association could begin logging to clear ski runs this fall.

Expansion opponents are likely to race to try and get a court injunction to stop the logging.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at vlaldous@yahoo.com or 541-479-8199.