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Court Upholds Expansion Opposition; Mt. Spokane Stays ‘As Is’ For Now

Mt. Spokane

Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park will remain its old familiar self for the 2013-2014 season, after a Washington state court put a temporary end to expansion plans at the non-profit resort.


A busy offseason of public meetings and court hearings effectively ended last month, when the  State Court of Appeals reiterated claims by the Lands Council, a Spokane-based environmental organization, that a more in-depth environmental impact study was needed before more terrain could be opened. 


The court ruling said the law requires decision-makers to "be apprised of the environmental consequences before the project picks up momentum, not after."


"It's unfortunate we're putting all this money into lawyers and process instead of improvements at the park, but we'll get it done one of these days," General Manager Brad McQuarrie told local media after the court ruling.


Instead of a new chairlift and 279 acres of new lift-served terrain, the only improvements at the 1,450-acre resort within the Mount Spokane State Park will be expanded restrooms and a new teaching area.


The rub appears to be old-growth forest, wetlands and wildlife habitat on the north-facing slope of the mountain, where operator Mount Spokane 2000 had proposed seven new trails and the new lift. A full environmental impact statement typically takes two years to complete.


"We do think there's some compromise that could be made, but we just want them to stay out of that old growth and improve the ski area that they have," said Lands Council Executive Director Mike Petersen following the appeals court action. “It’s a major decision to turn what was a de facto natural area into a ski area expansion in a state park. This really sets them back. We think it just might put an end to it.”


Resort officials have said in the past that expansion would spread out a growing number of skiers and riders who make the 60-minute drive from the Spokane metro area. Plus, they said the proposed area – which is now accessed by backcountry skiers and snowboarders -- holds snow longer and would extend the season.


A recent state-commission study confirmed that Mount Spokane’s financial future stability lay in expanded terrain and upgraded facilities.


Photo: Mt Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park



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