This season’s opening of the Spout Springs Mountain Resort remains in question.
Owner John Murray said in early December he planned on opening the resort after reaching an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to alleviate safety concerns between skiers and snowmobilers in the parking lot on the north side of Highway 204.
“There was a verbal handshake with backing in writing,” Murray said.
The Forest Service on Dec. 13 announced a new plan to allow overnight parking for trucks and trailers in part of the south parking lot.
“The Forest Service modified the south parking area in response to the loss of overnight parking in the north parking area, which was changed to day-use only to alleviate safety concerns raised by the ski area,” according to the announcement. “The changes to the south parking area balance the needs of the ski area with other recreationists that use this portion of the Umatilla National Forest. This alternative parking arrangement was developed with input from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Spout Springs Homeowners Association President Tim Richardson and other interested public.”
Murray said he was not part of that input.
“Kind of disappointing, really,” he said.
Spout Springs operates under a special use permit in the Umatilla National Forest, and the parking area north of Highway 204 is a Sno-Park, which pays for the Oregon Department of Transportation to do plowing and snow removal. The Sno-Park also allows for multiple use, including snowmobiles and trailers.
Murray maintained snowmobilers and skiers are a bad mix, and the parking has been the scene of a couple of fatal snowmobile collisions. He said the first he knew of the Forest Service’s changes to the parking plan was Dec. 14, when the resort was taking applications for jobs.
He said he was not pleased with the changes, nor was his liability insurance carrier, which covers the ski area and related activities but it does not cover snowmobiles and the like. Still, Murray said he is hopeful to work out something with the Forest Service and have the resort open for the first time in two years.
“We’re working on it. We’re working on it ... We’ll see how it shakes out,” he said.
Murray also said he is winterizing the place just in case.
An op-ed sent by Mike Rassbach, the Walla Walla District ranger of the Umatilla National Forest, late Friday said the parking lot modifications provide “equitable and safe access for a variety of recreational uses, including alleviating the concerns raised by the Spout Springs Ski Area.”