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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Joel Connelly on access

It's a perennial issue -- wheeled, motorized access deep into wild country. Some argue that without plenty of it, not enough "ordinary citizens" will see the splendid scenery to want to protect it. Others say there need to be limits on wheels to keep pristine places from being overrun and "loved to death." N3C would rather err on the side of preservation, on the principle that once it's trampled it takes a very long time to "re-wild." Many of the access roads built up the Cascade river valleys over the years are tenuous at best, and when storms cut them to shreds the cost of rebuilding them alone is often enough to de-facto make it possible for these roads finally be cut back to size. But there are some tireless adocates of wheeled access by family station-wagon, often those whose childhood memories of such long drives up bumpy roads were formative. The debate will doubtless rage on. Currently the Stehekin River road is the flash-point, as it has been many times in the past. Seattle P-I commentator Joel Connelly weighed-in recently.

In response, we can only wonder why he didn't more accurately title his column, "Let Our Wheels In." Closing roads that are washed-out not only saves a lot of money, it results in more level walking for those who may not be physically able to do more strenuous, steep trails that tend to start from roads like the Stehekin valley road, so in fact those who advocate for "access for the rest of us" should, we feel, welcome road closures which then yield easy valley walking.

We welcome his positive comments on the American Alps proposal:
The conservationists have a wider agenda, called the American Alps Legacy Project. The North Cascades Conservation Council and The Mountaineers want to expand the 505,000-acre national park by almost 50 percent. The North Cascades Highway; would actually travel through its namesake national park. The magnificent Cutthroat Pass-Snowy Lakes country, north of Rainy Pass on S.R. 20, would become part of the park. So would Thunder and Big Beaver Valleys, where Seattle City Light once plotted hydroelectrica [sic] projects. It's a worthy goal, given current crazy park boundaries.


Ken said...

Joel's points are clear, but I don't understand why the cost-benefit issue is not relevant for him. We can spend mega-$millions rebuilding the Stehekin Road for the benefit of a small percentage of those who visit remote, wonderful Stehekin, or we can spend those $millions elsewhere, providing far more "access" than the river-tormented road ever could. You get the sense that Joel is for rebuilding the road at any cost, even if means precluding access to other storm-damaged areas that thousands more families could be enjoying now had they been repaired. We have no money for those needs, yet somehow we can afford to fix the most expensive and least used road of them all?

By the way, I hear walking the old road is magical--I hope to do just that this summer.

Anonymous said...

Joel appears to think that all one has to do is throw mega bucks at the washed out road problem to restore vehicle access. It ain't that easy. Almost all road restorations or rerouting will require the violation of numerous laws. Building along the original alignments will necessity filling in the current river channels. Rerouting to higher ground will be both expensive and in the case of Stehekin Road violate the Congressionally designated Wilderness of the North Cascades National Park. Rerouting of the Dosewallips Road uphill will violate the Northwest Forest Plan. Mount Rainier National Park has chosen to abandon the Carbon River Road, where the road bed is lower than the river bed, rather than attempt to clear cut ancient forest in Congressionally designated Wilderness to provide an alternative route.

Anonymous said...

But building along the original alignment IS the higher ground option at Stehekin. That's where the road went to begin with. What's so bad about swapping the current PCT and Stehekin road routes beyond Carwash Falls? It would not cost mega millions if Hastings bill goes through.

As an environmental advocate myself, I can hardly see significant impact from this option. The PCT itself is a more significant impact in many parts of the North Cascades than this road ever will be (like the horrendous gash of Crest Trail in upper Swamp Creek).