Page images
PDF
EPUB

and courage. But the greater the challenge, the greater the feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence at the successful completion of the mission. To climb Southern California's highest mountain provides a thrill which cannot be matched by any experience in the city.

Sixth, we take the girls backpacking in order to introduce them to a sport which can be a major recreational activity for them during most of their adult lives. And this brings us to the point which I wish to stress most strongly.

The highest possible use for the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area is indeed for family recreation, but the type of recreation for which it is uniquely suited is hiking and wilderness camping. The other mountains in Southern California are liberaly sprinkled with cabins and resorts for those who wish to take their children up for a picnic or a day in the snow. But San Gorgonio is the only untouched area remaining for those who wish to take their children wilderness camping during the dry seasons. It is essential that we preserve the Dry Lake basin for this purpose because Slushy Meadow and Dollar Lake are over used. Dry Lake will be the hub of a series of trails now staked out by the Forest Seryice, not only to North Fork Meadow and up the southeast shoulder of Gorgonio but also to the Fish Creek canyon. The State of California is planning to develop family recreation and picnic areas in the Heart Bar and Fish Creek regions. So, when all these developments are completed, San Bernardino County will have the finest network of trails this side of the High Sierra. However, a road and a parking lot at Dry Lake right in the center of this network would destroy the aesthetic and ecological values of the area. And, what would we have in exchange but another resort with really not very much to offer the person who can remain for only a day. The Dry Lake basin is above nine thousand feet in elevation. Most persons who live near sea level cannot engage in strenuous activity at that altitude without allowing days for acclimatization. Dry Lake is even higher than Mountain Station on the San Jacinto tram; yet, the man in charge of First Aid there has found it necessary to administer oxygen to many persons who merely ride up the tram and do not even attempt to engage in any activity. Furthermore, it appears that there has been some exaggeration of the amount of snow available on Gorgonio.

For example, in November, 1963, I accompanied some girls to above the 10,000 foot level on the northeast slope in the vicinity of the Big Draw. Even our lug soles didn't prevent us from slipping on the thin layer of ice which covered the ground in the shady areas under the trees. There was certainly no snow on the mountain. Yet that very day we read in the Los Angeles Times a long article decrying the fact that a handful of conservationists could deprive the local skiers of the opportunity to use the fresh powder which they said was at that time decorating the very area in which we had hiked. Let's face it: San Gorgonio is not Mammoth !

It is true that a large proportion of the local hikers are members of the youth character-building organizations. But these youngsters are acquiring skills and mountain manners which they can use at many other times and places. In all the fan whom we have encountered in the back-country, there has been at least one member who was introduced to the sport through one of the youth groups. So it was in our family. My husband accompanied our son's Scout troop on their expeditions to Mt. San Gorgonio; so our daughter and the teenagers in our Camp Fire Girls group talked me into making a similar climb. Thus, at the age of 43, I became a backpacker, and I shall always be grateful to the girls for opening this new world to me. Hiking is really the only sport in which I can participate, because an attack of polio in 1949 left my shoulders too weak for any activity which requires arm motion. It has been said that only the strong and youthful are able to enjoy the wilderness area, but it was on these trails that I regained the use of my legs. Similarly, by husband is barred by arthritis from any sport which requires the hands to grip an object. Our family vacations during the past six years have all involved backpacking trips-in San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, the High Sierra, the North Cascades, and the Tetons. Since our son and daughter both attend college during the school year and work during the summer, the only family recreational activity which we have shared during the past year was a backpack trek in the shadow of the Grand Teton—there just aren't too many activities which teenagers enjoy sharing with their parents, but hiking can be one of them. Wherever we have travelled, we have met families who have maintained their solidarity through this activity. There was, for example, one family with four youngsters ranging from 4 to 16. The first grader was a short little fellow, but he was walking ten feet tall because he was carrying a pack the same size as those worn by his big brother. His mother confided that it was stuffed with popcorn and potato chips. Then, last summer after hiking all afternoon in the rain, some of our teenage Camp Fire Girls and I reached our destination as darkness was falling. We were resigned to munching a cold supper because there was no dry wood in the area. But we had scarcely begun to string our tube-tents when a young couple camped nearby with four boys came over to give us enough dry wood to cook dinner. On another occasion when some of our seniors became altitude-sick on a climb up Mt. Whitney, a family of backpackers not only carried their packs but also started a fire for them. It is interesting to note that the seniors who have taken our annual High Sierra treks have all exclaimed about the glorious scenery-true; but they have been even more impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness and the integrity of the families whom they have met. Where else in this state could you leave your camera and wallet in your campsite and know that they will still be there when you return? High school students appear to develop a touch of cynicism about the adult world, but those who take the High Country hikes return with their faith in human nature restored.

The experience which to me best illustrates the ideal of family recreation took place three Septembers ago in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. We had hiked past Slushy Meadow and Dollar Lake because they were much too crowded and had proceeded to High Meadow Spring. This is a tiny campsite at the 10,400 foot level with a pocket-size meadow and so little level ground that I felt like tying my sleeping-bag to the tree to prevent my rolling down the mountain into Forest Home. Five families were represented there that night, and we shared the single fire-pit. There was a five-year old boy and a 55-year old grandmother, with assorted teenagers and adults in between. Their homes ranged from San Diego to Santa Barbara. All had come to San Gorgonio in search of the unique experience which only this mountain can still provide.

So you see that families from all over South California recognize that the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area in its present state is already the finest site for the most wholesome kind of family recreation.

When you stand high on the mountain, you can look out over the brownish gray pall which is smothering the coastal plain. Then as you direct your gaze northward toward Big Bear, you are alarmed to see that the smog is beginning to fill the valley of the Santa Ana River up to the 5,000 or even the 6,000 foot level. Gentlemen, please preserve this one small sanctuary safe from cars so that our children will know the experience of viewing clear blue skies and the stars.

Mrs. JOHN W. GERHART, President.

LONG BEACH, CALIF., November 15, 1965. Congressman WALTER S. BARING, Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands, House of Representatives.

DEAR SIR: As a member of the Long Beach Council of Camp Fire Girls for the past ten years I have enjoyed group camping and hiking very much. In my eight years of camping experience I have hiked in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area many times. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of seeing the wilderness just as God made it without man's invasion. I enjoy meditating upon a high mountain, looking out on a hillside of pines and firs. How can one enjoy such beauty with a large parking lot or pieces of machinery in the way?

Bit by bit, the wilderness for me and others like me is being taken away. Why can't there be a place for people to visit to get away from the mad rush of the city life and the pressures of industrialization? Soon there will be none, if commercialization is allowed to spread further into the mountains.

I ask on behalf of my generation that you allow Mt. San Gorgonio to remain just as beautiful as it is and always should be. Thank you.

CAROLYN MARTIN.

LONG BEACH COUNCIL OF CAMP FIRE GIRLS, INC.,

Long Beach, Calif., November 15, 1965. Congressman WALTER S. BARING, Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives.

GENTLEMEN : As professional workers in the Camp Fire Girls, Inc. organization, we would like to make a plea for the preservation of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. Since our work is for the benefit of the Nation's youth, we are speaking in their behalf.

Much has been stated and written about man's progress and our fanatical application of this scientific knowledge toward a better world and a better life. We are constantly looking ahead, and give little thought to what we were once, what it was like before electricity, automobiles, freeways, skyscrapers, gasoline and oil, and prepared foods.

This progress is wonderful and indeed necessary in our present way of life; however, why progress us to a complete state of mechanization and commerciali. zation? Let's save something for our children and their future generations that will show them firsthand what the country looked like when Daddy was their age, or when George Washington and Daniel Boone lived. Also, let's save someplace for them to go when they feel that our fast pace and modern life is endangering their mental attitudes.

With the present population explosion-450 net increase per day in Los Angeles County alone

areas such as San Gorgonio are going to be at a premium. Since Gorgonio is the most heavily used-over 50,000 annually—wilderness area in the country and one of the last in Southern California, we plead for its preservation.

Of the 50,000 people using Gorgonio, half are children. The bulk coming from over 50 non-profit agency camps which train their campers in specific camp craft skills and then use Gorgonio to practice hiking, cooking over an open fire, and eating out-of-doors. These children using the facilities will pass their education and experience to their children and grandchildren and in this way will preserve our heritage.

The Wilderness Act, passed last year, provides for an orderly evaluation of areas which are presently designated as wilderness. The bills introduced, regarding San Gorgonio, appear to circumvent the intent of the Act and raise the probability of piecemeal actions, instead of a unified overall policy throughout the country. Also, the decision to run a road into a Wilderness Area is not reversible. Once a road is built, the trees, flowers, birds and animals are gone.

If we don't completely preserve this San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, the youth of Southern California will have no area to find solitude, to experience nature unscarred, to reflect on man's progress from the beginning, to find mental relief from their everyday life, or to find satisfaction from a physical feat completely independent of a mechanical device. They will never have the opportunity to experience a day or two of America in its natur state, without the indications of telephone and electricity lines, automobiles, and roadways that are constantly about them. America the Beautiful will be just history to them, America the Beautiful just won't exist.

JOAN A. FINN, Bxecutive Director.
PRUDENCE BICKEL, Camp Director.

TEXAS CONSERVATION COUNCIL, INC.,

Houston, Tex., November 13, 1965. HOUSE INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

GENTLEMEN : The Texas Conservation Council regrets that it cannot send a representative to the public hearing scheduled for November 16th and 17th for the purpose of removing 3500 acres of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area from Wilderness status. It submits the following statement concerning House Bill 6891 and requests that this statement be included in the Record of the Hearing.

The Council is unequivocally opposed to any bill that would declassify these 3500 acress of Wilderness because :

1. The acreage described in this bill constitutes the very heart of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Removing it from Wilderness status would not only mean

the loss of a very fine natural area but would seriously impair the value of the entire Wilderness.

2. The United States Forest Service considered this particular area so important as wilderness that it twice denied applications for a winter sports development there. That was in 1947 and again in 1963. In 1964 the House of Representatives refused to exclude it from the Wilderness Act by a vote of almost two to one. An area must have truly exceptional value as wilderness to survive three strong attempts to commercialize it. While a ski resort is not specifically mentioned in the present House Bill, this is obviously the underlying purpose as in previous attempts at commercialization. As wilderness, this area would assure ample opportunity for ski touring.

3. The San Gorgonio Wilderness has been more widely used than any other Wilderness Area; it had more than 50,000 visitors last year, which is some 20 times the national average for such areas. This area is, therefore, very important in its primitive state to the people who live close by and also to people from other states who are not fortunate enough to have Wilderness Areas within their boundaries.

4. There is no pressing need for commercialization of this particular area since there are nearly a dozen ski resorts in the general vicinity and provisions for doubling resort facilities as needed without despoiling this fine Wilderness Area.

5. The declassification of any part of the Wilderness System—and particularly of such a superb area as this—for no more important reason that resort development would establish a precedent for destroying the permanency of any and all areas set aside under the Wilderness Act of 1964.

6. The requirement of House Bill 6891 that equal wilderness be added to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area to replace the 3500 acres that would be taken out of the center of it is completely unrealistic because there is no adjacent land of equal value. The only National Forest land that could be added lies southeast of the present boundary. This land has twice been considered for classification as a primitive area and twice rejected, a clear indication that it does not compare with the Dry Lake Area which would be lost to the Wilderness System.

In addition to opposing the declassification of the 3500 acres described in House Bill 6891, the Council questions the procedure involved in the scheduled hearings. According to Section 3, subsection (d) of the Wilderness Act, it would seem that a hearing for declassification of a part of an established Wilderness Area should originate with the “appropriate Secretary." Sincerely,

LAURENCE N. DEXTER,
Chairman of the Board.

KAVR,

Apple Valley, Calif., October 28, 1965. Hon. WALTER S. BARING, Chairman, Subcommittee, Public Lands, Iouse Office Building, Washington, D.C.

DEAR MR. BARING: During each legislative session there are many bills introduced which I find interesting. One of the most interesting bills is one which affect a multitude of people in the Southern California area. The bill referred to is H.R. 6891 to open 10% of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area to winter recreation.

My concern with this legislation is more than one of a personal nature. It is a concern for the tremendously overpopulated Southern Californians. With the onslaught of new homes, freeways, and shopping centers, the recreational areas in the southland have diminished to practically nothing. The people of Southern California need recreational areas for pleasure and relaxation. This inaccessible area on Mt. San Gorgonio is used by so few it can't be considered an asset as it currently stands.

I urge your approval on H.R. 6891 so that Southern Californian's can use and enjoy what land still is available for this purpose. I further respectfully request that this letter be included in the official report of the subcommittee hearings. Sincerely,

THOMAS FROSTIG.

KAVR,

Apple Valley, Calif., November 4, 1965. Hon. WALTER S. BARING, Chairman, Public Lands Subcommittee, Longworth House Office Building, Wash

ington, D.C. DEAR CONGRESSMAN BARING: In recent months we at Radio Station KAVR have watched with interest the developments in regards to the controversy surrounding H.R. 6891, the San Gorgonio Bill.

During this time we have heard all sides of the issue. We had as our guests, on a discussion program we air daily, representatives from both sides of the issue. The newspaper coverage has been such that we gained a good deal of knowledge from there. It is therefore, after a thorough study that we have come to feel not only is a family winter recreation area of the quality of the type available in San Gorgonio needed, but that it is imperative to have it as soon as possible to aid in alleviating a growing need for recreational facilities in a booming southern California.

The views of KAVR are further expressed in the enclosed KAVR Editorial that was aired on November 2nd and 3rd.

We strongly urge you and your fellow congressmen to favorably consider this bill. We further request that this letter and the enclosed editorial copy be included in the official report of the hearing in San Bernardino on November 16, 1965. Sincerely,

ALAN F. BEACH, General Manager.

In past months something of a controversy has arisen over the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. It provides that a portion of the 35,000 acres in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area be opened for the purpose of allowing family winter recreational facilities. In these same months, two organizations have been formed, one that has taken a positive stand, the San Bernardino County Citizens for San Gorgonio and the so-called Defenders of San Gorgoino, who have taken the negative side of the issue.

The opponents of this legislation say the introduction of these facilities will harm the area, interfering with the present use of the area by a relatively few campers, hikers, and hunters. Taking into consideration the location and proposed safeguards, which we will go into in a moment, it is our feeling that the two uses of the area are completely compatible. Investigation has shown there is an acute need for a family winter recreation area of the quality possible in San Gorgonio.

The potential to use the area, for developing our youth and winter sports athletes, is a matter that also has to be considered at a time when there is a dire need for new recreational facilities in southern California.

Apart from the direct benefit to the people, the economic value has to be examined. It can't be measured, but when one considers things such as potential tax revenues, trade dollars spent in the area, the increase in value of properties and attractiveness of the area to potential residents and industries (due to a winter recreational facility of the quality possible at San Gorgonio) one can't help but believe that it would be of tremendous value to San Bernardino County. Even our local ski areas will benefit. Since no overnight facilities will be available in San Gorgonio, overnight visitors to the area will depend on the surrounding resorts. Many more people who are drawn here by San Gorgonio will want to try the other slopes also.

At the present a relatively large area is being used by a small number of persons. With the passage of this bill, a great number of our citizens would be able to use a small portion of this territory.

The opopsition, the so-called Defenders of San Gorgonio is a vociferous minority that exerts influence far out of proportion to their actual number. These same people have time and again been able to influence legislation and impede progress that could have been beneficial to great numbers of our citizens.

Because of this, KAVR feels we must make our voices heard and support the San Bernardino Citizens for San Gorgonio, and the safeguards they propose to be included in the pending legislation. These proposals are:

1. The area be limited to 3,500 acres of the 35,000 acres in the wilderness and to be in what is called the San Gorgonio bowl area north of Mount San Gorgonio and Jepson Peak, and east of Charlton Peak;

« PreviousContinue »