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The passage of H.R. 6891 would enable young people all over southern California as well as many adults now unable to participate in winter sports, using the slopes of San Gorgonio, and enjoying this potentially wonderful winter recreation area.
My experience and knowledge of the area convinces me of the tremendous possibilities it has as a training site for skiers wishing to compete in international and Olympic competition. Having been in the area many times, I have seen the excellent snow conditions there. I have also noted that the area in question receives very
little use in the summer and practically none in the winter, while the potential enjoyment for so many is so great.
I sincerely believe that the area must be opened and that no harm would come to its present use. I have seen areas used by people and used well. Use of the land doesn't mean abuse, contamination, or pollution, when it is properly controlled.
In the past months I have spoken to many groups, organizations, and individuals. I have found almost universal agreement with the feel I am expressing in this testimony. Many people have given me additional reasons to believe in the position Ì hold. Among the numerous groups I have personally come in contact with who have come out in favor of H.R. 6891, include: Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce, Hesperia Chamber of Commerce, Lucerne Vålley Chamber of Commerce, Victorville Chamber of Commerce, Victor Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce, and Hi-Desert Tourist & Recreation Council.
I envisage a tremendous winter recreation area patterned to incorporate the wilderness area concept into the entire development. The buildings in a wilderness decor, the facilities to blend with the terrain, in fact, the name could possibly be the San Gorgonio Wilderness Recreation Area.
Rather than just being a large area used by a few, a small portion of this same area could be used by many. Its opening could mean the greatest good for the greatest number of persons.
I would add something at this point. The development of a ski area on Mount San Gorgonio could be a tremendous asset to the U.S. winter Olympic hopes. This is the opinion of
U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Bob Beottie, who spent several hours on Tuesday, November 9, 1965, touring the proposed 3,500-acre site.
Olympic coach since 1961, 32-year-old Beottie was ski coach at the University of Colorado from 1956 until he quit this year to devote full time to developing the Olympic program. He said:
I don't think I've ever seen an area that looks more like it was made for winter sports.
If this were to be permitted on San Gorgonio, the possibilities for developing athletes of Winter Olympics caliber among the millions of Southern California youth would be fantastic. Just look at what Santa Clara Youth Village has done for swimming.
Beottie, also head coach of the U.S. Ski Association alpine program made these remarks to me and also at a press conference following his tour of San Gorgonio.
Accompanying him on his tour of the wilderness area were residents of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties including John Blatt of Indio, 1948 U.S. Olympic ski team member; Chandler North, research horticulturist from the University of California at Riverside; D. H. Sullivan of Apple Valley, an officer in the San Bernardino County Citizens for San Gorgonio, and O. H. Allred, former U.S. Forest Service
for the wild area. Opponents have charged that the 3,500 acres being opened to commercial skiing would take the heart out of the 34,718-acre wilderness area. Beottie said:
A lot of people seem to be afraid that as soon as an area is opened, hot dog stands will move in bringing along a carnival atmosphere.
I think all they have to do is see Sun Valley (Idaho), Aspen (Colorado) and several of the ski areas close to Denver to know that this is wrong. At Sun Valley there is only one eating place at the top of the runs and no buildings on the slopes.
On Mount San Gorgonio, very few trees would have to be cut because most of the area is above the timberline. “It would not be the 'heart of the area to me. There are many more beautiful spots throughout the section.” When asked about the wildlife he saw there, Beottie replied, “I didn't even see a squirrel, but someone did see two." Beottie pointed out that skiers have no disagreement with the people who want to preserve the natural beauty of such areas:
Everybody interested in skiing is also interested in preserving the Wilderness Area. Ski developers want to keep the beauty. Chair lift poles are painted green to blend in with the trees, and at many places the chairs are removed in the summer, leaving only cables showing. I saw more signs going up there than I've ever seen at Squaw Valley, Aspen or Sun Valley.
Beottie said that one of the reasons that the United States has made a relatively poor showing in winter sports in the past is that major ski areas are located in areas with small population.
An area like this would offer easy accessibility to thousands. Skiing is something that must be practiced regularly and the youth in Southern California now must travel to Central or Northern California to find dependable Snow.
We now have outstanding prospects in the Los Angeles are with no opportunity to practice.
Beottie feels that the San Gorgonio has great potential and compares favorably with Squaw Valley, where the 1960 winter Olympics were held. This is because of the altitude. The base of the Squaw Valley runs are about 6,000 feet. The reports I have of snow depths compare very favorably with the best areas across the country.
Allred, ranger in the wild area for 2 years, said that there is excellent skiing there varying from 100 to 190 days each year. Beottie said:
There is a very strong likelihood that we would bring the Olympic team to San Gorgonio for training * * *. It would play an important part in our Olympic team development.
I have no quarrel with the people who want to keep the Wilderness Area. It's just a matter of getting together on development. Not all of the 3,500 acres would go to skiing. Much of it would act as a buffer area to protect the Wild Area. As I see it, this is a very, very vast area and a lot of people are using it now. But by opening a small portion, many times more people would be able to take advantage of it.
Mr. BARING. Are there any questions?
I also want to take this time to state that we will keep the record open for 2 weeks if any of you still wish to make a statement.
Mr. SULLIVAN. I forgot to open this folder, sir, and I have a couple of other things that I wanted to introduce.
There was a letter from the Apple Valley News and they wanted to, if possible, have their editorial submitted for the file.
This is also the fact with the Valley Report in Apple Valley; and, also the editor of the Lucerne Valley Leader who submitted information; and, also a group of students from the Victor Valley Junior College; they have submitted a list and a petition of names to be added
file. Mr. BARING. In accordance with the way we have handled the other material, that will be included in the file.
Mr. SULLIVAN. Also, I have one other statement I would like to read on behalf of another gentleman who asked me to include it as part of my testimony.
Mr. BARING. Well, that statement, and I am looking at it, the statement of Mr. Sydney Kronenthal, director, division of parks and recreation, city of Culver City, Calif., will be made a part of the file.
Mr. SULLIVAN. Thank you very much, sir.
Mr. BARING. I want to thank my colleagues who have given their own personal time to come here and assist with this hearing.
I also want to thank the press. I think their writeups have been most fair. I have followed them very closely during the last 3 days.
I also want to thank the public for being so generous. It is a long period to sit here for 2 days; we have a very controversial bill; and I think you
all should be thanked for your conduct and your coming here and giving us the benefit of your practical knowledge.
As I have stated, all of the statements submitted to the reporter, which statements have not been given on the record, will be incorporated into the record at this point as if read. STATEMENT OF JOHN B. SURR, SECRETARY, EDELWEISS SKI CLUB
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIF. Mr. SURR. Edelweiss Ski Club and John B. Surr, individually, are probably more conversant with winter conditions on San Gorgonio than any other group. They feel that the public, both skiers and nonskiers, would lose much and gain little by permitting commercial ski development in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. There knowledge of the wilderness area and the reasons for their position appear below. Indentity of those making this statement and knowledge of the factors
involved As the committee will observe, many witnesses have had but brief acquaintance with the wilderness area, and have only seen one aspect of it. That is not the case with us.
Edelweiss Ski Club was born on Mount San Gorgonio. During a ski trip to that area in the winter of 1934–35, some 15 skiers decided to form the club. It has lasted ever since.
The members reside in various parts of southern California and run the gamut of occupations, including, among others, a machinist, a professional artist, a doctor, a professor, an engineer, and a public utility employee. The club has remained small, varying in number from 14 to 20.
In each of the 30 years since its founding, club members have skied on Mount San Gorgonio and the surrounding mountains. The only known long-term record of snow conditions in this wilderness area appears in its logbook-admittedly somewhat lighthearted and sketchy—which was kept for many years at a crude shelter which the club maintained near the 10,000-foot elevation on Mount San Gor. gonio.
John B. Surr, who joins in this statement, is the perennial secretary of Edelweiss Ski Club. Not only have I skied in the area each year for the last 30 years—I am now 59 years of age—but I have hiked extensively in the area each year since 1929, as well as having hunted and camped there.
For a number of years, he also owned section 3, township 1 south, range 1 east--588 acres which includes the saddle at 10,000 feet elevation above Dollar Lake, and is the heart of the wilderness area.
So far as skiing experience is concerned, I have skied many of the major western resorts in California, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado since 1935, and am a life member of the Far West Ski Association, and have skied European resorts on two winter trips, as well as having been active in helping to organize a local ski resort-Snow Valley, Inc.some 20 years ago.
My residence in Redlands, Calif., and law office in San Bernardino have made access to Mount San Gorgonio possible on frequent occasions. Questions to be answered
The values involved in the decision which Congress must make are riot matters of dollars and cents, nor is there any common standard of measurement. Fair answers to the questions below should, however, help to resolve the problem in the best interest of the public.
There may be other criteria which should be applied, too, but certainly answers are needed to these questions:
1. If the wilderness area is opened to commercial ski development, is it possible later to reverse the decision, should it prove to have been unwise?
Contrariwise, if the legislation for commercial skiing is now turned down, could commercial skiing later be allowed, if it is then shown to be desirable?
2. Is it good legislative practice to bypass the administrative machinery of the Wilderness Act for deciding upon exclusions from wilderness areas?
3. How great is the need for this wilderness area now? Will that need increase or decrease ?
4. Is the suggested commercial ski development compatible with wilderness use?
5. To what extent is this wilderness area unique? To what extent should the commercial ski development be unique?
6. How broad a segment of the public is served by a wilderness area—by a commercial ski area?
7. Can the excluded area be replaced satisfactorily with other land? 8. What effect would a ski resort on San Gorgonio have on skiing itself? The answers
1. Reversibility.--No elaboration is needed to answer this.
If roads, ski lifts, and related facilities are built, they will never be unbuilt, but, from their nature, will last almost indefinitely.
If the proposed special legislation is rejected, however, the Wilderness Act provides for periodic reconsideration of status, and Congress could, if it chose, authorize commercial ski development at a later time.
Authorizing commercial ski lifts in the wilderness area would be irreversible rejection of them could be reversed at a later time.
2. Bypassing the Wilderness Act. If Congress wants a Pandora's box of troubles to open, here it is.
The Wilderness Act carefully sets up the procedure for administrative consideration and recommendation as to changes in wilderness areas, and for legislative consideration of such changes.
The proposal to exclude part of the San Gorgonio wilderness area by direct congressional action is the first attempt to avoid the exclusion procedures set up just last year in the Wilderness Act.
The conclusion is clear. Rejecting direct congressional action would tend to channel future proposals for exclusion through the established administrative process. The exclusion from wilderness by direct legislation which you are considering would be a precedent for all such matters to be dumped in the lap of Congress.
3. The present and future need for the San Gorgonio wilderness area.-No denial of the need for San Gorgonio as a wilderness area has yet been heard, and it would be a presumptuous person who would suggest that the need does not exist.
The basic facts relied on to show the need for a commercial ski area demonstrate the essentialness of wilderness—but more so. A southern California population of more than 8 million today looks to San Gorgonio as the only wilderness area high enough to avoid fire closure and to provide meadows, streams, and springs for the camper, hiker, picnicker, or naturalist.
That San Gorgonio has the highest rate of use per square mile of any wilderness area in the United States shows that it is among the most needed. If any wilderness area should exist, this should.
In a brief 15 years, it is estimated that southern California's population will be over 16 million. Due to the arid climate, southern California is virtually devoid of natural greenery below 4,500 feet elevation.
Manifestly, in the future, the San Gorgonio wilderness area will be a more necessary refuse from the “asphalt jungle” which will then stretch from the mountains to the sea, than it has ever been before.
As smog increases, the clear air of the heights and the brilliance of the stars at night become more and more necessary to mental balance and satisfaction in living. Each added traffic jam on the freeway gives new value to the naturalness of San Gorgonio.
4. Compatibility of wilderness and commercial ski development.Perhaps the question answers itself. Could even a 5-year-old child