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(From the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Nov. 16, 1965)
GORGONIO: A PLEA FOR 10 PER CENT
(By Melvin Durslag) SAN BERNARDINO.--To understand fully the Southern California psyche, you go back to the sewer problem in Los Angeles.
With each moderate rainfall, the streets used to flood. Worse yet, water would cascade into housing developments in the flatlands, sending people and their pets to the roof.
There was one intersection in particular, not far from the airport, to where city editors would dispatch a photographer with each rain. People in that area manned rowboats, often to rescue motorists marooned atop their cars.
Still, the citizenry wouldn't vote for sewers, the dissenters reasoning that it rained around here only a few times a year.
Then people defeated a bond issue to construct the Coliseum. If the newspaper publishers hadn't formed a private group to underwrite the costs, a stadium never may have been built in Los Angeles.
And once the stadium was there, its commissioners were to reject professional football. The pros got into the place only after a big argument.
Nor was major league baseball welcomed with open arms. First, it was barred from the Coliseum, after which obstructionists blocked every plan to build a municipal ball park.
THE NEW BATTLEFIELD
You recall this enviable record of progress in taking note of the fascinating battle for a mountain now occurring in San Bernardino County where a congressional hearing will eventually lead to a settlement, one way or the other.
The fight matches the skiers against the nature lovers, and their battleground is a handsome piece of real estate called Mt. San Gorgonio, some 80 miles east of Los Angeles.
Rising upward of 11.000 feet, San Gorgonio is the only place in Southern California where snow is assured during the winter sports season. Skiers in the area number upward of 300,000, and they are forced to travel to the High Sierra, a minimum of 650 miles round-trip, in order to find the stuff on which to roar down the hill on slats.
San Gorgonio embraces some 35,000 acres. The skiers are asking for only 10 per cent of the land, which happens to belong to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The request would seem reasonable enough, except that the nature lovers, which includes bird watchers, butterfly collectors, rock hunters, campers and the like, want the whole blasted mountain for themselves.
They claim that skiing will commercialize and ruin their arcardian wonderland, and even though their group is small by contrast, it is vocal enough to have frightened the Government for all these years.
The war between the skiers and the nature lovers has been going on for maybe three decades, but it wasn't until three or four years ago that the embroilment captured the fancy of a gentleman named Vincent X. Flaherty, a prominent journalist with wide experience in fighting obstructionists.
He spent 13 vears trying to bring big league baseball to California. The roadblocks he encountered were so many and so diverse as to be almost laughable. But he won.
And now that three teams inhabit the state and they drew upward of 442 million customers this year—he reflects with amusement his trials attempting to get only one here.
THE SAME TYPE
Vincent finds it hard to explain why he got into the San Gorgonio fight, except that he detected the same type of counteractants in it that he found in the baseball battle, and he got mad.
The first thing he did was visit the late President Kennedy in the White House. Although skiing on San Gorgonio didn't take precedence over everything else
on his list of things to be accomplished, the President agreed that the bird. watchers didn't have the right to the whole mountain and he arranged an interview for Flaherty with Secretary of Agriculture Freeman.
Had Mr. Kennedy lived, Vincent feels that winter sports buffs already would be rolling down the slopes of San Gorgonio, rather than sweat out the results of a congressional hearing.
The case is interesting and very much of national concern, because it will serve as a test of whether a comparative handful of nature lovers can conserve for themselves vast public lands requested by groups infinitely larger.
Exploring the woods, searching for a golden-throated finch, may be an admirable pastime, but Flaherty insists that one doesn't need more than 90 per cent of a mountain in which to do it.
APPLE VALLEY-VICTORVILLE JUNIOR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE,
Victorville, Calif., November 4, 1965. Hon. WALTER S. BARING, Chairman, Public Land Subcommittee, Interior and Insular Affairs Committee,
Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. DEAR CONGRESSMAN BARING: This is to transmit to you, for inclusion in the official records of your subcommittee, a recent resolution of the Apple ValleyVictorville Junior Chamber of Commerce, favoring, with certain restrictions, passage of HR 6891, recently introduced by our representative, Hon. Ken W. Dyal.
The membership of the Apple Valley-Victorville Jaycees represents the Victor Valley Area of Southern California, which area centers approximately 40 miles north and west of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. One of the purposes of Jaycees, locally and nationally, is community development. In line with this purpose, and believing that the opening of a portion of the wilderness area for family winter recreation will be a stimulus to economic and recreational development of Victor Valley, the Apple Valley-Victorville Jaycees urge your subcommittee's support of HR 6891, with the reservations stipulated in the attached resolution. Respectfully yours,
PAUL R. POTTER, Secretary.
RESOLUTION BY THE APPLE VALLEY-VICTORVILLE JUNIOR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Whereas, the Apple Valley-Victorville Junior Chamber of Commerce feel that it is their civic responsibility to comment on matters of importance to their communities; and
Whereas, the opening of a certain portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area to family winter recreation, would benefit members of the communities served by this Jaycee Chapter.
Now, therefore be it Resolved that the Apple Valley-Victorville Junior Chamber of Commerce supports passage of the bill introduced by Hon. Ken Dyal (HR 6891) with the following reservations or restrictions :
That the area be limited to 3500 acres, which represents 1/10 of the total San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.
That no roads shall be constructed in the remaining wilderness area.
That 2.50 percent of the gross revenues from commercial ventures in the recreation area be placed in a trust fund for improvement and extension of hiking, camping, and other outdoor facilities in the remaining wilderness area.
That no public overnight accommodations be permitted in the recreation area. That the proposed ski facilities shall in no way interfere with existing water sheds.
That all sanitation facilities be of a type approved by local and State Department requirements.
LOS ANGELES CITY SCHOOL DISTRICTS,
INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS CENTER,
Los Angeles, Calif., November 30, 1965. HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
GENTLEMEN : I wish to voice my opposition to House Bills 6891, 7490, 7654, 8033, 8176, and 8859, which are planned to set aside a sizable portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for commercial winter recreational development.
As Supervisor of Conservation Education in the Los Angeles City Schools, I am constantly viewing with alarm the relentless encroachment upon the already too few spots where our wilderness is preserved. If we are to maintain our nation's heritage and ideals, long range planning makes it imperative that these oases of nature be saved to meet present and future demands and needs.
It has been my pleasure to have been actively engaged with the Boy Scouts of America for the past thirty years. When one sees the joy, understanding, and appreciation that is registered by the youth of our nation when they visit areas such as San Gorgonio, their value is immediately apparent. This value will increase as future demands are met.
Please help to maintain the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for present and future posterity. Sincerely,
J. EARL SMITH, Supervisor, Thrift, Conservation, and School Savings Section.
BIG BEAR LIFE,
Big Bear Lake, Calif., November 19, 1965. HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SIRS : In regard to bills proposing the opening of a section of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, San Bernardino County, for the development of skiing facilities, I wish to go on record as being opposed to the removal of any land from this Wilderness Area.
As publisher of Big Bear's newspaper and a director of our Chamber of Commerce, I see no economic setback for Big Bear should ski lifts be erected in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. In fact, it probably would eventually prove to be a plus factor in our economy here. However, I do not believe economic factors should have any bearing on the decision of whether Gorgonio is to be opened up. Nor do I believe that the need for an Olympic ski training site or the need for more slopes and facilities for Southern California skiers deserve consideration.
In my opinion, the only question to be decided is whether or not the people and the government of the United States intend to preserve for posterity all those areas of our country set aside and designated as Wilderness Areas. If we are and I think we should—then they must be protected against whatever special interest or political pressures are brought to bear to the contrary.
The needs and desires of our present generations are hardly important in this issue. What is important, though, is the kind of country we are going to leave behind for generations still to come. Sincerely yours,
ROBERT G. WOOD.
LA SIERRA COLLEGE,
La Sierra, Calif., November 15, 1965. Re San Gorgonio hearings, November 16 and 17, 1965. PUBLIC LAND SUBCOMMITTEE, HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Washington, D. C.
GENTLEMEN : La Sierra College is the owner of 620 acres in the San Gorgonio Mountains more fully described as Section Six, T. 1 S., R. 3 E., San Bernardino meridian.
La Sierra College purchased this land a year ago for the specific purpose of setting up a natural history reservation and biological station. Our Depart
ment of Biology will supervise and control this project, and we are most interested in having this area preserved in its natural state in order that scholarly research may be pursued without interference or disruption from commercial interests.
Further, we can report that access to this section of land has been arranged with the U. S. Forestry Service whereby La Sierra College will use existing Forestry Service roads. Roads developed by La Sierra College will be built according to Forestry Service specifications and will be available for Forestry Service use.
It may be readily seen how seriously commercial development would hamper the education program planned for Section Six. La Sierra College accordingly protests Bill HR 6891 and any similar bills requesting any form of commercial development in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area. We are most concerned that this area be preserved in its present status, remaining under the protection of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Should you desire more information we shall be happy to provide it. Sincerely yours,
DAVID J. BIEBER, President.
SEA AND SAGE,
Santa Ana, Calif., November 2, 1965. PUBLIC LANDS SUBCOMMITTEE, HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SIRS : The Conservation Committee of the Sea and Sage Audubon Society cannot be present at your hearing November 16; therefore, this letter is sent that it may be placed in the record against the advisability of H.R. 6981 and the similar bills that have been introduced.
San Gorgonio was first established as a primitive area in 1931. The question of its development for other uses, such as ski development and family winter recreation, was the subject of extensive public hearings by the Forest Service in 1947, after which the proposals were rejected. The reasons for preserving this most heavily used and widely accepted wilderness area in the country as a wilderness area are even more imperative than in 1947.
There are about 70,000 skiers in southern California seeking family winter recreation and, as their numbers increase, lands have been earmarked to double resort facilities for them without developing San Gorgonio.
San Gorgonio is the primary test case of our entire idea of wilderness preservation. Sincerely yours,
FERN ZIMMERMAN, Chairman, Conservation Committee.
TRI-COUNTY CONSERVATION LEAGUE,
Norco, Calif., November 16, 1965. PUBLIC LANDS SUBCOMMITTEE, HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Washington, D.C.
GENTLEMEN : The Tri-County Conservation League came into being for the purpose of saving the wilderness areas in the Santa Ana River flood plain, and we hope to restore the wilderness nature of the despoiled areas of the river bottom as much as possible.
However, our project is actually an extension of the San Gorgonio wilderness area. The only fitting climax to a wilderness type recreation way from the ocean to the mountains source is our beloved San Gorgonio wilderness area.
If future generations are to develop the hardihood and good tast to hike, ride bicycles, or ride horses out of the asphalt jungles of Orange and Riverside Counties, don't set up a disappointment for them by allowing the terminus of the journey to be marred by the introduction of honky tonk commercialism on the heights. The future trip up river should be an adventure into frontier atmosphere.
DAVID A. BUTLER, President.
NORCO, CALIF., November 11, 1965. PUBLIC LANDS SUBCOMMITTEE, HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Washington, D.C.
GENTLEMEN : We, as a non-organized group of back-packers, have as an objective: getting away from the noise, hustle and bustle of our modern day civilization. If you were to take a census of the number of back-packers who go into the wilderness areas, we believe you would find the number of people far exceeding any concept of those who do not follow the trend of "getting away from it all”. Obviously then, to a census taker, becomes the fact that the wilderness areas available to us at this time are not adequate. We do not believe that this area should be taken over by modern day commercial interests which are not to the best interests of the general public who are already using this area. We feel that you would be making a great mistake in opening up one of the best and most popular wilderness areas for commercial-type development, namely skiing interests.
As citizens and users, we request that the few remaining Southern California wilderness areas continue as wilderness areas. Very truly yours,
JAMES E. SPARKS
(And nine others).
AMERICAN CAMPING ASSOCIATION,
Carlsbad, Calif., November 30, 1965. COMMITTEE ON INSULAR AFFAIRS, Longworth House Building, Washington, D.C.
GENTLEMEN : As Chairman of Region VII, incorporating nine western states, of the American Camping Association, I address you for the Region, and particularly the Southern California section, concerning our opposing the opening of the San Gorgonio wilderness area.
Those of us interested in preserving such areas speak for the thousands of boys and girls, as well as their parents, who love nature as it exists as opposed to the few who might seek commercial ventures. Thanking your deep consideration of this all-important matter, I remain, Respectfully,
W. C. ATKINSON, Chairman Seventh Region.
CALIFORNIA GARDEN CLUBS, INC.,
La Quinta, Calif., November 2, 1965. HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, Longworth Building Washington, D.C.
GENTLEMEN : Representing some 18,000 members in 400 clubs of this state federation, we respectfully request that this testimony be included in the record of hearing in opposition to HR 6891 by Mr. Dyal and to the companion bills of similar intent by Mr. Corman, Mr. Leggett, Mr. Hawkins and Mr. H. T. Johnson.
This letter is but a supplement to similar correspondence with reference to maintenance of the integrity of this area, which principle was upheld by nearly a two to one vote of the Congress upon the enactment of the Wilderness Legislation.
Perhaps as serious as the violation of the wilderness principle, which the above bills would involve, is the questionable use of misleading title for said proposals. The halls of Congress of the United States should be no locale for the practice of trickery or misrepresentation by the elected repr ntatives. The intent of these bills is additionally incongruous in the face of the high priority of the present administration given to the preservation of natural beauty.
With reference to the misleading title which proposes a "family winter recreation" area, it needs to be strongly emphasized that this wilderness area is already experiencing family recreational use on an expanding basis, much of which would be eliminated with the development of the complex mechanics of a ski slide.