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July 25, 2006 MAA needs community dialogue Mt. Ashland Association (MAA) has chosen to drag out a lengthy battle over a doomed expansion plan rather than seek compromise. The environmental community accepts most of the proposed improvements. Rea

MAA needs community dialogue

Mt. Ashland Association (MAA) has chosen to drag out a lengthy battle over a doomed expansion plan rather than seek compromise. The environmental community accepts most of the proposed improvements. Reasonable alternatives have been offered over the years, but MAA prefers to fight to the finish as evidenced by their latest refusal of mediation.

As a season pass holder who taught my children to ski on Mt. Ashland, I appreciate the need for improvements at the ski area. But clear cutting the headwaters of Ashland Creek in the pristine McDonald Peak Roadless Area is not acceptable. Heavy equipment and large scale construction for chairlifts will destroy lush meadows, delicate wetlands, Engelmann Spruce groves, and habitat for the Pacific Fisher and other endangered species. I have hiked into this magical place many times in winter and summer. This is the wrong place for more development.

The expansion also is deficient from a skier’s perspective. Novice runs a mile from the lodge will be difficult and dangerous to access. But there are acres of potential novice terrain near the lodge that environmentalist do not oppose, and acceptable proposals for longer runs that MAA has rejected. Skiers will have to ride the new lift part way and double back to ride the old Arial lift to the top. Advanced skiers will be spending a lot more time sitting on chairlifts. For this, MAA proposes to spend up to 17 million dollars. This will inevitably require jacking up ticket prices, making local skiing less affordable for many.

The MAA board continues to behave as though they are accountable to no one. They are poised for clear cutting in September before court appeals can be filed. MAA is reneging on public promises to cooperate with the City of Ashland. The city requested that MAA not proceed until liability for restoration costs is determined, a business plan for the expansion is provided, and an independent QA/QC team is formed. None of this has been done. The Forest Service estimated restoration costs at nearly a million dollars 15 years ago. It would undoubtedly be higher today after an expansion. MAA is a non profit with no assets other than the ski area. If they go under in drought years, the taxpayers of Ashland will be stuck with the bill.

It is time for MAA to stop fighting and start working with the community.

Paul Copeland

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