As the Walla Walla District ranger, I have had the privilege of talking with many of our community members regarding the two Sno-Parks at Spout Springs Ski Area.
I want to sincerely thank everyone who has contacted me and engaged in conversations around Spout Springs. Through all of these discussions it is apparent to me that this area of the Umatilla National Forest is highly valued by many of the communities that we serve.
I also recognize that the values in this area include a whole spectrum of forest uses, including skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling skiing, powersports, hiking, hunting, wildlife viewing, cabin recreation, swimming, timber production, horseback riding, and more. In fact, the Spout Springs area is a perfect example as to why the Forest Service has a mandate to support multiple uses.
In the past two years, the Spout Springs Ski Area has not opened for business, citing safety concerns with the administration of the parking lot north of Highway 204. I have been working with the owner of the Spout Springs Ski Area to address these safety concerns, which he states are preventing him from obtaining liability insurance needed to open for winter operations.
In order to alleviate these concerns, I recently agreed to modify the north parking area by eliminating overnight parking once Spout Springs opens for the 2018/2019 season. My objective with this agreement was to have Spout Springs operate their downhill and cross country operations during the 2018 and 2019 ski season, while providing for the safety of all users that enjoy recreating in this area.
The north parking area is within the Spout Springs Mountain Resort Special-Use Permit and is utilized by ski area customers and other winter recreationists. The north parking area is managed in partnership with Spout Springs and the Forest Service and is part of Oregon’s Sno-Park program.
A second parking area (known as the south parking area) is located across the highway from the Resort. The south parking area is outside of the Spout Springs Ski Area permit and managed by the Forest Service under a separate Sno-Park agreement with ODOT. In the past, the south parking area has been designated only for passenger vehicles.
Since announcing the north parking area modification, I have received numerous phone calls and emails from various community members regarding concerns over the loss of overnight parking in the Spout Springs north parking area.
Through these discussions, including input from ODOT, I decided to modify the configuration of the south parking area in order to authorize overnight parking for trucks and trailers in a portion of the south parking area.
The new parking arrangements for both the north and south parking areas provide equitable and safe access for a variety of recreational uses, including alleviating the concerns raised by the Spout Springs Ski Area.
I encourage anyone with questions to contact me directly or visit the Umatilla National Forest website for the latest information. The updated parking area map is available at: www.fs.usda.gov/umatilla.
My long-term vision is to see this area thrive and continue to serve the variety of communities that enjoy recreating on their National Forest. I look forward to seeing Spout Springs Ski Area open again to our public, as I believe it is an important local resource, providing family-friendly recreational opportunities and jobs for our communities.
I also look forward to continuing to provide the important multiple-use recreational opportunities that connect you all to your National Forest. I am grateful for the time and effort invested by each of you. I hope these discussions will serve as a positive step toward continued work together.
Mike Rassbach is the Walla Walla District ranger for the Umatilla National Forest.