County wants to revitalize Stehekin

By:  Carrie Draeger, lakechelanmirror.com
Source: Lake Chelan Mirror

WENATCHEE -- Getting the road to Stehekin reopened is a good first step, but making the community and North Cascades National park a viable enterprise again requires a lot more work, according to Chelan County Commissioners Ron Walter and Keith Goehner.

The state Legislature recently passed a bill that asks the federal government to work with Washington state officials on reopening Upper Stehekin Valley Road.

"Both the park as well as the private sector is in jeopardy," Walter told David Reeploeg from the office of Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell at last week's county commissioners meeting. "It is in a place that won't survive.

"If the Courtneys weren't multiplying and propagating I don't think we'd have a Stehekin."

Goehner and Walter both emphasized a need to promote tourism, private enterprise and limited development in the area.

"There's some significant assessment, but there's nothing to draw them (tourists) there without business, without transportation," Goehner said.

In 2003, much of the upper half of the Stehekin Valley Road was washed out by the nearby Stehekin River, making a boat or a plane the only ways to get there.

"There was a different energy level (in the past) than there was today," Walter said.

The National Parks service is still looking for a concessionaire to provide services in the Stehekin area.

"They're not able to attract concessionaires," Walter said. "If you have more private activity, there's more opportunity."

The National Park Service originally issued a prospectus last fall and recently re-advertised the contract after making revisions in an effort to create a more attractive contract.

Cliff Courtney, vice president of Stehekin Heritage, a non-profit organization dedicated to working and giving aid to the Stehekin Valley Community, said federal land acquisition in the area will, "unquestionably lead to the demise of the community."

Since, 1968, when the park service was given control of the federal lands within the valley, the community lost substantial lands, according to a press release from Stehekin Heritage.

Geohner and Walter both expressed interest in getting some of the land returned back to the private sector.

"Just imagine the Golden West Hotel as a hotel (again)," Walter said. "It's a parks service office. It should be used as what it was originally intended for."

The commissioners asked Reeploeg to approach Cantwell about getting involved.

"It does need a senator's involvement," Goehner said.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings and state Sen. Linda Evans-Parlette have been involved in the issue for a long time.

"The national parks are set aside for the public. We want our community to be worked with," Walter said. "It's the only access to a national park on the east that we have."

Both state houses recently adopted an Evans-Parlette-authored the State Joint Memorial asking Congress to redraw the borders of the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area so that the Upper Stehekin Road could be relocated to its historic route, along the Old Wagon Road, she wrote in a press release.

The memorial is awaiting approval from the Governor.

"I'm going to continue to pursue all avenues for getting the Upper Stehekin Road reopened," wrote Evans-Parlette, who grew up in Chelan and represents the area.

In other news commissioners:

• Asked Reeploeg to approach Cantwell on the future of biomass on forest service lands.

• Heard information from Cascadia Conservation District Director Mike Rickel and Lisa Pelly on developing a program to protect water rights in the Entiat Valley.

Contact Carrie Draeger at reporter@lakechelanmirror.com or 509-682-2213.