Roller coaster at Northstar: Construction would begin May 2010 | SierraSun.com

Roller coaster at Northstar: Construction would begin May 2010

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Construction on an alpine roller coaster at Northstar-at-Tahoe and#8212; an idea drawing public scrutiny based on noise and environmental concerns and#8212; could begin as early as May 2010, according to environmental documents.

On Feb. 18, the Placer County planning department received an environmental noise assessment and an environmental questionnaire from Booth Creek Ski Holdings (which manages Northstar). Both reports describe the coaster as a two-person toboggan that could be controlled by riders and reach speeds of up to 25 mph.

and#8220;Pending regulatory approvals, project construction is to commence early May 2010 in order to allow for operations by mid-July 2010,and#8221; officials wrote in the questionnaire.

The questionnaire states the coaster would start at an elevation of 6,745 feet and descend to 6,342 feet with a curving descent of 4,260 feet worth of track stretching 15 feet off the ground.

It also states 620 feet of track will cross a nearby 100-year-old floodplain (a piece of land periodically flooded to support nearby wildlife); because of support structures that do not require excavation, the floodplain will not be affected.

and#8220;The proposed coaster is consistent with the definition of outdoor commercial recreation, a land use that is allowed with the approval of a minor use permit,and#8221; said Paul Thompson, a Placer County deputy planning director, on Wednesday.

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Next, county planning staff must make an environmental determination.

and#8220;Both the use permit and the completed environmental document will be considered by a hearing body at a public hearing at a future date,and#8221; Thompson said.

David Landis, an area homeowner who originally voiced concern over the coaster, said he would be and#8220;severely disappointedand#8221; with Placer County if it approves the coaster and hinted toward possible litigation.

and#8220;If Placer County and its supervisors don’t have an environmental impact report, we will be filing a lawsuit,and#8221; Landis said.

Landis said heand#8217;s talked with Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the Tahoe region, saying said heand#8217;s concerned the noise assessment does not take into account for and#8220;screaming children and families.and#8221;

and#8220;I have a meeting next week with Paul Thompson and with Mike Wells from Planning and will be asking for more detail on this project,and#8221; Montgomery said in an e-mail to Landis.

According to articles in the Post Independent, the Sunand#8217;s sister newspaper in Glenwood Springs, Colo., a woman filed a lawsuit against Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, where a similar coaster exists. The woman reportedly said she struck another toboggan stopped on the track and severely injured herself in July of 2006. Both parties later settled out of court.

Another story from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel in Colorado reported a woman sued the park in July 2009 after she and her daughter were allegedly flung from the ride and dragged along the tracks, suffering serious injuries. According to that story, as of October 2008, the park reportedly had more than 400,000 visitors who rode the roller coaster in question, which resulted in six accidents.

In a Thursday phone interview, Steve Beckley, owner of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, said since his park opened in 2005, the ride has run more than 700,000 times with an average of 125,000 rides per year. He said his coaster has about 1,000 feet less track than the one proposed at Northstar.

He said the only problems with the ride happened when riders werenand#8217;t obeying the rules.

and#8220;Overall, the safety of the ride is very good,and#8221; he said.