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Embed code for: Stop the Granite Peak Proposal
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The Granite Peak Ski Area proposal for additional ski runs and lifts to the west of their existing lease area is not in the best interest of Rib Mountain State Park or the majority of people in the State of Wisconsin. The expansion to the west should not be approved by the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or any other Wisconsin governmental agency.
The following environmental factors and effects on park visitors must be considered in rejecting this proposal:
This expansion will go into a designated State Natural Area. Per the DNR web site “State natural areas (SNAs) protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. Encompassing over 373,000 acres, Wisconsin's 673 natural areas are valuable for research and educational use, the preservation of genetic and biological diversity and for providing benchmarks for determining the impact of use on managed lands. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.” “ Once secured by purchase or agreement, sites are formally "designated" as SNAs and become part of the natural area system. Designation confers a significant level of land protection through state statutes, administrative rules, and guidelines. A higher level of protection is afforded by legal "dedication" of SNAs through Articles of Dedication, a special kind of perpetual conservation easement.” These areas are protected for a reason and should not be gobbled up for commercial interests. There are also three rare plant species in this natural area. There is no benefit to the state park in allowing this expansion. Additional lease money that Granite Peak would pay goes to the Wisconsin general fund, not for the betterment of the state parks.
The new proposed runs will pass through and effectively destroy several areas that have historical significance including old foundations, roads, and artifacts of early settlements, agriculture, and quarry operations. These are quiet areas being reclaimed by nature that allow you to reflect back on the history of the area and the way human activity has impacted the land.
The expanded runs will pass through and significantly alter or destroy natural rills and gullies that support a wide variety of wild flowers in addition to being a unique and tranquil feature on the north side of the park.
The Friends of Rib Mountain have invested a great deal of time, effort, and money (with assistance from the Wisconsin Stewardship Fund) in the development of the Quarry, Homestead, and Turkey Vulture trails. The many hours invested in clearing and marking these new trails will be wasted. These new trails pass interesting vistas, rock features, and wild areas. They call attention to the history of the quarry and early settlement on Rib Mountain and serve to demonstrate how nature can reclaim land that has been scarred by human activity. These trails have seen a significant year-round increase in foot traffic over the past few years, not just from hikers, but extensive use for snowshoeing. New ski runs will have a major negative impact on the experience of these users and will alter the ability for year-round use due to skiing.
During the construction of new runs, the many existing trails and half of the west end of the park will no doubt be closed for most if not all hiking This will eliminate recreational opportunities for many regular park users. Any relocation of these trails as proposed by Granite Peak will no doubt be a last priority and treated as an afterthought. Look at the restoration done to the GRAY trail after the current expansion as an example.
As we can see when we look at the existing ski runs, the new ski runs will introduce large water pipes, electrical and control shacks, light poles, snow making equipment, service roads, and unsightly lift towers into what is now scenic wild areas. This will not add to the enjoyment of a hike in the wild. Examine the clean-up and maintenance of the runs that have been added over the past years by Granite Peak as an example of what will happen in the new areas. Clean-up and restoration of the woodland after construction will only be an afterthought with minimal effort to mitigate construction damage, drainage problems/erosion and introduction of invasive species. If the reconstruction of the Gray Trail that was affected by the last expansion is an example of what Granite Peak will do to restore the trails, almost nothing will be done. Their proposal also seem to include a fair amount of additional maintenance facilities in the proposed addition. Should the park be giving up public property for this type of use? They should buy adjoining property for this type of activity.
New trails that Granite Peak claims they will construct will have to go into areas that will have little interest compared to the current trails. Many of the lower sections of the trail are wet in spring. The introduction of man-made snow will just add to the wet trail conditions and create additional erosion problems.
When Granite Peak was awarded the lease to operate the ski concession, they were allowed to make a significant expansion to the former lease area and add many new runs that clear-cut acres of forest in the park. This was an expansion that we were told was needed to make the ski operation profitable and there was agreement on the merits of that request. Many Wausau area residents expressed concern over the amount of public land that was clear-cut to assist a private business. Over the years, the ski operation has grown and prospered. Now, not many years later, we are again being asked to further degrade the natural areas of the park for private profit. How much has really changed that they need another large expansion? Last year a newspaper article on Granite Peak indicated that business was great, now they say they need more.
The Granite Peak proposal claims that this will be a job-creating project. If we examine this claim, there is not much to this. At best, Granite Peak may need a few more full-time staff. The reality is that there will be a few more seasonal, low-wage jobs created at the ski hill and some additional hours available for hotel cleaning staff and restaurant servers. The construction jobs will be short-lived and most will be contracted to out-of-area companies that build the ski lifts. These are companies that do not care what kind of a mess is left behind after they get paid. The only real winner in this is the Granite Peak Corporation.
When Granite Peak was awarded the ski concession at the hill, slope-side lodging was included in that plan and Granite Peak purchased property adjacent to the park for that purpose. It was presumed that the original proposed additions to the ski hill would be sufficient to support the slope-side lodging. Nothing has changed in that regard. If the hill is busy and doing well, building the lodging as originally planned should be a financial boost to the ski hill that will assist the long-term prosperity of Granite Peak. Therefore, there is no need for even more runs to make this part of the expansion happen.
When John Muir said, “Going to the woods is going home,” it is doubtful that ski lifts were part of his vision.
In summary, Granite Peak agreed to a thirty year lease and they should live by it. This proposal to expand the ski operation appears to be nothing more than a land grab to increase the profits of an out-of-state corporation at a tremendous cost to the environment and to the year-round users of the state park. The expansion proposal must be rejected.
*I have been a volunteer at Rib Mt. for almost 20 years and served as President of the Friends of Rib Mountain for eight years. I spent many hours of volunteer work developing public use trails in the affected area, the attached letter lists my personal opinions on the proposal. They are not an official position of the Friends of Rib Mountain. The Friend have not taken a position as of yet.and maintenance of the runs that have been added over the past yea