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When you analyze these many American mountain development promotions carefully, you will see that the early profit makers are the steel company, the financiers, the “financial feasibility” report-makers, the attorneys and the engineers. And can see that the steel cable suppliers stands to gain a new permanent account. Business logic calls for an early secret alliance.
The apparent promoters—ski resort operators (seeking a monopoly franchise), downhill skiers, real estate men, and other immediate area businessmen—are only the inspired front for the real promoters. In the present case, as most, you can fill in the firm and the individual names.
It is well documented that most (but not all) ski resorts are marginal operations financially. Government is now being manipulated toward financial investment in ski resorts, through direct aid, through low interest loans of (tax) public monies, or through allowing use of the tax-exempt bond issuance privilege. A strictly business venture should be able to face normal business risks without subsidization by taxpayers early or late, directly or indirectly.
If only the promoters would confine themselves to planning projects with private investment on private land, or public land where there was no abridgement of the existing land use zoning, then there would be no disapproval. I suggest that these aggressive commercial interests stop consuming everyone's time and mind there own business by paying closer attention to the customary financial investment problems at Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, etc., and show less zeal for attempting yet another business venture on Mt. San Gorgonio.
The Southern California downhill skier already has dozens of ski resorts to choose from, and is guaranteed snow for an extended season by snowmaker installations. The very large scale ski development at Mt. Pinos, and at Mineral King, will provide amply for skier future needs.
Therefore, please may I recommend that the national policy of wilderness protection be upheld by early rejection of this unmerited promotion.
STATEMENT OF INGOLF DAHL, LOS ANGELES, CALIF. This is a statement in behalf of the preservation of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area in its present unspoiled state.
I would like to point out to you that I am a skier myself and I and my friends have skied on San Gorgonio for many years and do so now. It is the unspoiled wilderness aspect of this beautiful area which makes the winter outdoors experience such a unique one there. We have plenty of developed ski areas in Southern California and there are other possibilities for ski development within reasonable distance (such as Mineral King, for instance), so that it is not necessary to ruin the only, and the most scenic, Wild Area within the neighborhood of this huge metropolitan settlement. I say “ruin" advisedly, because the existing ski developments in Southern California have all taken on a distasteful honky-tonk aspect, and anyone who has seen the destruction of scenic values at such a place as Mammoth Mt. in California through ski lifts and "clearing op erations" will realize that wilderness values are not compatible with commerical lift developments.
I would like to request that this statement be made part of the record of the San Bernardino field hearings on H.R. 6891 and related bills.
STATEMENT OF MR. AND MRS. LEON ADELMAN, SAN DIEGO, CALIF. We are unalterably opposed to commercial development in a Wilderness Area, particularly the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for the following reasons :
(1) The passage of the above bills would set the dangerous precedent of breaking up other areas set aside by the Wilderness Act of 1964.
(2) An overwhelming majority of California Congressmen voted four to one in favor of the Wilderness Bill of 1964 which established San Gorgonio as a primitive area.
(3) Since 1931, when San Gorgonio was first established as a primitive area, the Forest Service has gone on record favoring retention of the San Gorgonio Area. Moreover, the California Legislature has repeatedly rejected amendments for commercial development.
(4) The land to the East and South offered as a replacement area is inferior and unsuitable for Wilderness Recreation use.
(5) Finally and of the most urgent importance to us and many thousands of individual citizens: The approval of the above bills would violate and destroy the most heavily used Wilderness Area in the country, as well as the only remaining area of its kind in Southern California.
The benefits of a Wilderness Area to the good physical and mental well being of the people of this State cannot be measured. Please save San Gorgonio.
STATEMENT OF F. RUSSELL WADE, FILLMORE, CALIF. It is requested that the following statement be incorporated in the record of the Mt. San Gorgonio Wilderness hearing to be held November 16–17, in San Bernardino, California.
Over the past 35 years, I have walked more than 5,000 miles on the wilderness, National forest and National Park trails of the United States and Canada, from the Adirondacks to the Southwest. Much of this hiking has been in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California. I have back packed and camped on both the north and southsides of Mt. San Gorgonio. The area probably qualifies as the best wilderness area adjacent to the Southern California metropolitan complex in scenic value. As far as wild or primitive value, the northside of Mt. San Gorgonio is the most accessible and most frequently used of the Southern California areas.
The question that must be resolved is whether or not the benefits to be derived by opening the northside of Mt. San Gorgonio to skiers in the winter, more than offset the detriment to the wilderness caused by an unsightly road scar and parking area, ski lift towers, and facilities which will be visible to hikers in the summer.
Nine times out of ten I will be counted on the side of the wilderness people, the National Park Association, the Sierra Club and other groups opposing the opening of the few remaining wild areas in the country. But cognizance must be taken of the total picture; the aesthetic value lost should be weighed against the recreational value gained. How do you weigh three or four thousand hikers a year against three or four hundred thousand skiers? How deeply affected are the aesthetic sensibilities of the hikers? If given a choice, how many would rather drive to the end of the ski road and then hike to Dry Lake, or Dollar Lake, or the top of San Gorgonio? How deeply affected are the sensibilities of the conservationists and conservation society members, most of whom have never seen San Gorgonio and will never see San Gorgonio?
Does the withdrawal of 3,500 acres at Mt. San Gorgonio spell the beginning of the end for the principle of wilderness preservation? I do not think so, but believe that opening San Gorgonio to skiing represents sensible management of the Nation's recreational resources. I urge that Mt. San Gorgonio be opened for skiing development.
My reasons are simple-we are weighing the aesthetic merit of a second rate wilderness against the recreational value of a first rate ski area. Furthermore, the people of Southern California are blessed with one of the greatest wilderness recreation areas in the United States, in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains, whereas good skiing conditions are very scarce and costly to reach for weekend skiers in Southern California.
STATEMENT OF HOWARD K. KLEBSCH, UPLAND, CALIF. This statement in behalf of maintaining the San Gorgonio Wilderness area in its present natural state and prohibiting any commercial encroachment within its boundaries, is submitted to the Committee at the public hearings held in San Bernardino Nov. 16 and 17. I am hopeful that this may be made a part of the hearing record.
I am writing as a private citizen, am a graduate engineer and a faculty member at an engineering college. I am also an ardent skier, and am aware that a very respectable portion of Southern California pleasure skiers are aware of the wilderness values of San Gorgonio and share my belief that it can best
serve its purpose to present and future generations by remaining an untarnished retreat available to millions, and free to all.
1. OPEN SAN GORGONIO?
In the past several years, these words have been heard and read many times by Southern Californians. Being a skier, I became interested in what was so wonderful about San Gorgonio. In the last nine years the answer has been afforded me many times. Less than a half-dozen winter months between November and June have passed in this nine years that I did not make a trip into the S. G. wilderness area.
During this period, I have come to recognize "Open San Gorgonio” as one of the most incongruous and redundant arrangements of words.
Nowhere have I found an area so open, so rich and varied in quality of recreation, so non-discriminating of its patrons, and priced so right. I have found "young" people of all ages enjoying experiences afforded only by an area such as the San Gorgonio wilderness, and afforded because it is open only to people and not to the mutilation and harassment of commercialization.
2. "FAMILY” WINTER RECREATION ? Being an engineer with a college degree, I am likely in the average income group. In view of the cost of a day's skiing for an average family of four people, it is very unrealistic to term a commerical development a family recreation area when it is completely free to everyone, in its natural state.
I assure you, it can be used, and is used, by skiing families when snow conditions are suitable. In addition to this, what of the family summer recreation? From my nine years of using the San Gorgonio wilderness, winter and summer, and from my experiences in commercial ski areas, I am positive that commercial operations would render the area useless for summer wilderness recreation. I am also positive that the area would be closed to winter wilderness recreation and ski touring.
3. LENGTH OF SNOW SEASON My very numerous trips into the San Gorgonio wilderness have convinced me that only about one year in five would this terrain provide, in its unaltered condition, any but limited and hazardous skiing for the great majority of the skiing public prior to the month of March.
All of my observations were made by travelling the area on foot. In doing this, it became obvious that aerial surveys of ski conditions are very inaccurate. In many cases reports of deep and complete coverage resulted from inability to distinguish between a few inches of new snow and uniform depths of several feet of pack.
In years of good coverage the snow remains on S. G. a few weeks longer than on other mountain areas of Southern California. However, it has been my experience that the great majority of skiers turn their attention to other interests at this time of year, even though there may be good snow in the local resort areas.
In summary, my observations lead me to firmly believe that extensive terrain and surface feature alteration, completely incompatible with the wilderness values, would be required to realize an appreciable extension of the ski season in Southern California by commercializing San Gorgonio.
4. THE WINTER OLYMPICS ISSUE It seems that many of the Olympic calibre skiers, in Europe and the United States, whose names I can recall came from areas of relatively sparse population which were within daily afternoon striking distance of ski slopes with long seasons, rather than from great population centers located four hours round trip driving time from ski areas of spasmodic snow conditions.
I do not honestly believe that the Olympic-quality native talent in the Los Angeles area is stifled by the absence of a commercial ski development in San Gorgonio. I believe if this talent is frustrated, it is because Southern California simply does not have the reliable rainfall or temperature requirement to make it a great winter sports area. Seasons of sufficient snow in Southern California are the result of meteorological conditions freakish to, rather than normal to, Southern California.
As to San Gorgonio being a prospective location for Winter Olympic games, it is only necessary to consult the accurate weather history to realize that the probability of sufficient snow on San Gorgonio, prior to these events, would make their scheduling there a very hazardous venture.
5. THE ECONOMIC ISSUE
The economic aspect is probably the most ill-chosen front on which the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area has been attacked by the developer. The growth rate of Southern California renders it obvious what a futile sacrafice, of an irreplace able treasure, the commercialization of San Gorgonio would be. The benefits would be realized by a very few and would hardly be even a stopgap measure in bolstering the general economy. After this became insufficient, would we find another San Gorgonio to exploit? We all know the answer to this.
This same principle applies to the unrealistic belief that commercialization of San Gorgonio would cure, forever, the crowded ski lift lines and all other frustrations by which the Southern California skier is beset. When it is discovered that San Gorgonio is insufficient and that we have sacrificed it in vain, will we restore it to the wilderness condition? No, we would only have additional crowded lift lines and we would still drive to northern resort areas to find reliable snow for the major part of the ski season.
6. THE REAL ISSUE
The San Gorgonio controversy is not a contest between skiers and bikers or any other two opposing groups. The great majority of the people who hike in San Gorgonio are very capable skiers. Being a skier myself, my contact with other skiers convinces me that the rank and file of skiers, on becoming aware of the purpose of our wilderness areas, are quick to grasp the significance of the real issue. The real issue is that San Gorgonio is our finest Southern California wilderness. It is only large enough to retain its wilderness values and an invasion of its heartland would render it utterly ineffectual.
If we are ever to have the courage to judge on the basis of quality rather than take refuge in basing all judgment on quality, now is the time to act and, in saving San Gorgonio, perhaps stem a tide that could make a complete mockery of that fine and far sighted legislation, The Wilderness Bill. Sincerely,
HOWARD K. KLEBSCH.
STATEMENT OF ELTON F. TAFT, CHATSWORTH, CALIF. As a native son of this state, and a resident of Southern California for over 38 years, excluding four years in the service of the United States Navy, I honestly and sincerely know that the San Gorgonio Ski project would benefit all Californians.
As a family man who doesn't ski anymore because he can't afford to pack up his family and travel over 300 miles one way for one or two days of good weekend skiing.
As an operator of a business in the area for two years who witnessed first hand the actual number of Californians who reached the summit area of San Gorgonio.
For an example, in the winter months during this two year period I knew of only one couple who were capable of existing in and enjoying this high country. They were raised on skis, and spent half their lives on cross country skies which was the mode of travel in the part of Norway where they came from. They were a fantastically hardy couple, but even they had to give it up when the only protection offered from the severe winter storms in the area was removed by the Forestry Department.
As an individual who more than once has started up the trails at the west end of the reserve only to find them blocked with drifted snows at the 7,000 level in June and sometimes even in July. The majority of the trails into the summit area are on northern slopes, and with normal winter storms are usable about one quarter of the year.
As a citizen who has a better than average knowledge of the area and who has tramped over, cross countried in a four wheel drive jeep, flown over and made a living out of the area, and who was recently informed that there is a claim that some 58,000 people a year get into the summit area can only say that I am amazed at such a claim. The area in question is wild, remote, dangerous, in extremely high elevations and only available, to any practical degree, several months out of the year as it now exists.
I have lived in and owned property in this area for over eight years, and can honestly say that the entire area of over a quarter million acres is not now and never has been designed for the use of the general public nor even the average outdoorsman with limited equipment.
The San Gorgonio wilderness area is part of an area covering over a quarter of a million acres, and talking apples and apples, you cannot consider one area without including the other. Therefore, the true area in question is more in the realm of one quarter million acres.
These quarter million acres of public lands administered by State and Federal Governments have eight (8) improved camp grounds, and two (2) picnic grounds designed for the public's use.
These facilities are so inadequate that on the average summer weekends hundreds of campers are turned away. I have seen many weekends when the Forestry Department has placed signs at the Mill Creek ranger station, at the entrance to the mountain area, stating that the campgrounds are closed or all filled up.
The other use of the area is by the non-profit camps which use their facilities at full capacity only during those months when school is out which is less than three months out of the year. A very large number of the people who use the San Gorgonio area are those who have the privilege of using the private camps.
I have been one of the more fortunate people who has had the chance to live in this area and have been able to see it, and know it as it really is.
As vast and as beautiful as this area is, 99% of the population do not know that it even exists because of its very, very limited usable area.
Those who oppose this use of and improvement of public lands can't validly oppose this if they are taking into consideration what is good for the majority.
Right is right, and it is only right that all of the some 8,000,000 taxpayers surrounding this area get every chance offered to them to use and see this wonderful mountain country, any time of the year. It is there for us all to use if we wish some day, but not as it exists today.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C., November 8, 1965. Hon. WAYNE ASPINALL, Chairman, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: It has come to my attention that the House Subcommittee on Public Lands will conduct hearings in San Bernardino, California on proposals to provide skiing facilities in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area.
I have a very deep interest in every issue affecting the Wilderness areas and I am strongly opposed to any proposal which would allow a commercial ski development to cut into the heart of the San Gorgonio area.
You will recall that an unsuccessful attempt was made in 1964 to provide for skiing facilities within the San Gorgonio Wilderness area when the Congress passed the Wilderness Act. I opposed the proposal then and I oppose it now.
I wish to be included among those who are expressing their views on this issue
JOHN D. DINGELL,
PALM SPRINGS, CALIF., November 16, 1965. Hon. WALTER S. BARING, Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs National Orange Show Building San Bernardino, Calif.:
We very much appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of legislation and proposals which will provide for the opening of a portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for family winter recreational use. The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, over the past many years, has advocated, supported and worked vigorously to provide legislation and facilities which would make pos