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Summit seeks growth input

The Summit at Snoqualmie is pushing forward with its expansion and renovation plans.

This "master plan," as the Summit's general manager Dan Brewster noted, intends to rebuild and renovate its property including chairlifts, parking lots, ski terrain and more, as well as adding 53 acres to the 1,800 acres it currently leases from the Forest Service through a special-use permit.

The Summit's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS - the master development plan) is now available for public review and comment; feedback will be accepted through Feb. 21.

Brewster said the main reason for the development is to have more control over the connections between the four Summit sites: Summit West, Summit Central, Summit East and Alpental.

Along with that, the plan notes new chairlifts, more trails including those accommodating to snowboarders, larger skiing areas at Alpental and Summit East, increased parking, more restaurant seating and increased area for night skiing.

"Our plan is to take existing terrain and to improve it and update [facilities and services] to make them more guest-friendly," Brewster said.

This plan, if approved, would cost the Summit about $30 million over 10 to 15 years.

The Summit locations receive about 1.2 million visitors on average during the skiing season, Brewster said. That number could increase by 20 to 40 percent if the plan is fully approved.

Consultants for the U.S. Forest Service prepared the draft plan for public comment. After comments are received and reviewed, the consultants will develop the final draft to approval.

The Summit operates on about 40 percent of private land and about 60 percent of Forest Service land, Brewster said.

There has been concern among ome environmental-rights organizations, including the Sierra Club and the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, because of the old-growth timber and habitat that might be disrupted or cut for new runs and ski lifts.

"Our concern is maintaining old-growth habitat," said Larry Donovan, the Forest Service's winter sports specialist.

The Summit's planning process began in the early 1990s, Brewster explained, but was put on hold until Booth Creek purchased the four sites in 1997. The Forest Service was presented with its plans in August 1998 and the Draft EIS has been in development ever since.

The plan has been very carefully developed, Brewster said. The changes and the additions can only be made if they are seen by the Forest Service as neutral or beneficial to the surrounding environment.

During its more than six years of review, the Forest Service has developed five alternatives to the draft plan proposals to accommodate a variety of options.

One alternative (alternative number five) that has been endorsed by officials of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest includes donating a large portion of land, a little less than 400 acres, to the Forest Service in exchange for the 53 acres, Brewster said. It would link the forest of the south Cascades with the forestland to the north of Interstate 90.

Should that alternative plan be approved, the Summit has already made an agreement with Plum Creek Timber to buy and donate the forestland near the resort.

The Forest Service will take public comment into account when reviewing the final version before any part of the plan.

"It will allow us to serve more people better," Brewster said. "[But] the final decision is made by the Forest Service."

The draft plan is available at www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs or at the Snoqualmie Ranger District Office in North Bend, 42404 S.E. North Bend Way. Call (425) 888-1421. Public comment may be e-mailed to Donovan at ldonovan@fs.fed.us or mail to Donovan at: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest, 21905 64th Ave. W., Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043.

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