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Navickas ordered to pay court filing fees

Environmental activist Eric Navickas has been ordered to pay the Mt. Ashland Association's court filing fees after he lost a case challenging a parking lot expansion at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.

The fees are approximately $500.

Material carved out of a hillside to expand the parking lot was used to recontour the Sonnet beginner run to make its slope more gradual for new skiers and snowboarders.

Navickas raised concerns the parking lot expansion could cause erosion in the Cottonwood Creek watershed on the back side of Mount Ashland, while the run recontouring could cause erosion in the Ashland Creek watershed on the mountain side facing Ashland.

Navickas took his case before a Jackson County hearings officer, then to the state Land Use Board of Appeals and later to the Oregon Appeals Court. He didn't win before those bodies and has appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Navickas said Jackson County approved the project on the mountain without offering citizens a chance to give input through a public hearing. He said his case was denied on appeal because the hearings officer said he lacked legal standing.

"I don't think it reflects well on the legal system in Oregon when citizens are denied an honest hearing on the case. The hearings officer ruled against me on standing," Navickas said. "It's a way of dodging the real issues of the case."

The Mt. Ashland Association did not ask the Oregon Appeals Court to order Navickas to pay the association's attorneys' fees for the protracted legal battle or its filing fees, said Mt. Ashland Association board secretary Alan DeBoer.

The association had to spend more than $5,000 to defend itself, DeBoer said.

"It's disheartening when we waste money in court cases where there's no gain to be had," DeBoer said. "It's almost vindictive. Eric costs taxpayers and supporters of Mt. Ashland money that could be well used for many things."

DeBoer said the situation was especially frustrating because the Sonnet recontouring and much of the parking lot expansion was already finished as Navickas continued his appeals. The project's launch and Navickas' first appeal to the Jackson County hearings officer took place last year.

The last step on the project, the paving of the expanded parking lot, was finished about three weeks ago, DeBoer said.

"I'm looking forward to him stepping up and writing a check to Mt. Ashland," DeBoer said of Navickas.

Navickas said he will wait for the outcome of his appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court before paying all the filing fees. He said he would make payments on the fees and stay current if the lower court sets up a schedule.

Navickas is an opponent of the Mt. Ashland Association's controversial plans to expand the ski area. The ski area, which didn't open last winter because of a lack of snow, lacks the money to carry out the $3.5 million-plus addition of ski runs and chairlifts.

The ski area secured a $750,000 lifeline loan from the Small Business Administration this spring after the disastrous winter season.

Navickas is a former Ashland City councilor while DeBoer is former mayor of Ashland.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com.