The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
November - December 2006
Echo Summit and Echo Lakes SnoParks threatened
A plan by the Placerville Ranger District, Eldorado National Forest, to solicit applications for a 10-year special-use permit for the operation and maintenance of the Echo Summit Resort Site threatens both the Echo Summit and Echo Lakes SnoParks. It all comes down to the question of who should be responsible for accidents on the snow-play hill adjacent to the Echo Summit SnoPark - the Forest Service, which owns the lands, or the state of California, which operates the adjacent parking facility.
SnoParks are administered by the state through its Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division and provide winter parking at strategic locations throughout the state. Without them, wonderful areas would not be accessible. Although it is not required at any other SnoPark, the Forest Service wants the state to provide liability insurance for the lands adjacent to the SnoPark parking facility at Echo Summit, even though the state lacks the authority to manage these lands. The state refuses to buckle under to the pressure of the Forest Service.
Skiers, snowshoers, and snow players are the people who stand to lose. Even if some concessionaire should propose to operate, say, a winter environmental school at the site, there is no guarantee that low-cost public parking would be part of the operation.
On almost every fair-weather weekend or holiday, the Echo Summit SnoPark is full by 10 or 11 am, and cars begin parking on Highway 50. If SnoPark parking is eliminated, and hundreds of additional drivers are displaced onto the highway, we will see tremendous traffic jams and unsafe conditions.
The outcome at Echo Summit may also impact the SnoPark at Echo Lakes, which is the gateway to Echo Lakes and Desolation Valley in winter. This is one of the finest backcountry ski and snowshoe destinations in the area. The state is worried that it will not be able to keep the Echo Lakes SnoPark open if the Echo Summit one closes. In the past it has issued a combined contract to service the vault toilets at the two areas. A contract for only the Echo Lakes SnoPark may be too small to attract a bidder. Toilets are a requirement for all SnoParks.
The Forest Service has already heard from organizations, including Snowlands Network, and individuals on this critical winter-recreation issue. All eyes are waiting to see what proposals result from the prospectus that the Forest Service has issued for future use of the area.
© 2006 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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