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Opinion Column
For the week of June 14 through June 20, 2000

Developing a solution to winter recreation conflicts

Commentary by SHELLY PRESTON

The Winter Coalition Map Committee, representing the Wood River Valley ski and snowmobile community, was formed in response to a challenge from Bill Levere, Forest Supervisor of the Sawtooth National Forest, to develop a winter recreation use map for the Wood River Valley.

Since February, this committee has worked diligently towards finding a community- based solution to resolve and end the conflicts between winter recreationists and preserve reasonable and fair areas for the various user groups to enjoy their winter sports in such a way that it will promote good will and cooperation between the groups to the greatest extent possible and be as friendly to the environment and the community as possible.

This solution must address possible future conflicts that may arise because of the increased growth expected in all user groups, and not just be a short-term solution.

The group has developed the following list of criteria to be used as a guide in assessing each issue and think that the majority of these criteria need to be satisfied for any solution to truly work, not only for now but well into the future:

 Separate the ski areas from the snowmobile areas to the extent possible to preserve the quality of the experience for all users.

 This must be done in a way that has easily defined and controlled boundaries—i.e., ridges, valleys or draws, fences, etc.

 This must be a plan that is easily understood by both groups and easily enforced by the groups themselves and the Forest Service.

 Provide more quality areas for both skiers and snowmobilers recognizing that the need exists for more terrain for everyone.

 Provide for future growth of both sports by better utilizing the available terrain in the Wood River Valley, not just by providing more for one group at the expense of the other.

 Take into some consideration the economic ramifications for those on both sides who have businesses that either support the sports, or that actually exist because of the sport in the area—i.e., rental shops, huts, snowmobile tours, Galena Lodge.

 Other considerations would include: the number of users in each group; historical usage; quantity of area required; accessibility; quality and quantity of snow in all seasons; wildlife issues; impacts of various user groups; specific scenic corridor issues; the impact of closures on various user groups; safety.

If we can come up with a plan that accomplishes these criteria, we can meet the objectives of the group and the needs of the community. There may well be more criteria that needs to be considered; however, this list represents much of what we need to be able to consider on a point by point basis, to determine if any proposal can reasonably and fairly meet the objectives stated above.

It's important for our entire community to be involved in determining the outcome of this map. Let your thoughts be known to the map committee by June 20. Written comments can be sent to the Winter Coalition at 308 N. Main St., Hailey, ID 83333; or e-mailed to [email protected].

Shelly Preston of Hailey is spokesperson for the Winter Coalition Map Committee.


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