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Mount Spokane ‘Red Chair’ Approved by State Commission

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

Mount Spokane’s ski planners got approval this week to develop new ski terrain on a contentious section of the mountain. The State Parks and Recreation Commission voted to allow ski expansion after hearing three hours of public testimony Wednesday night.

The mountain slope in question is nick-named the PASEA. Minutes before the vote, commission member Mark Brown reminded his colleagues of the parcel’s history.

Brown: “The ski club there goes back to the 1930s, and so there’s been skiing there, developed skiing there, for a long long time. And interestingly to me, and I think to all of you, almost all of that within what’s now the PASEA.”

The PASEA has had no formal ski runs for decades, though.

Brown and other commissioners were compelled to give long explanations behind their vote, maybe due to how emotional the topic has been from both sides. Commissioner Patricia Lantz sided against the ski development.

Lantz: “There was a time when we thought our natural resource blessings were infinite, but we now know that’s not true. So I feel that I have a new responsibility in this privilege to take a step and say…that I want to say no, this is worth preserving.”

But the majority gave Mount Spokane’s concessionaire permission to install a chairlift they have acquired, and call the ‘red chair’. Mountain General Manager Brad McQuarrie says they are excited to improve the mountain. Those improvements will include numerous mitigation measures, like avoiding patches of wetlands.

McQuarrie: “And we’ll work with all the agencies to say how we are going to do this. Then I’ll be able to put a budget to it, and a timeline, and we’ll know when we can bring this to the public.”

The commission’s two votes do more than allow for more downhill skiing. The approved land classification divides the PASEA into three sections, one part natural forest area, one part that allows mountain biking and other activities, and one part for the ski development.

The commission agreed to enforce more conservation elsewhere on the mountain, in areas not near the existing ski terrain.

Opposing group the Lands Council says they aren’t giving up. Executive Director Mike Petersen says the old growth is still standing, and they may file an appeal against the project’s environmental impact statement. He calls it rushed and low quality.

Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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