My Turn: ‘Green-washing’ Royal Gorge development |

My Turn: ‘Green-washing’ Royal Gorge development

In response to the guest column dated May 11, 2007 “Public input is shaping Royal Gorge plans,” I take offense with the submission. First of all, let’s call Royal Gorge’s development plans what is; it is development and development by nature is intended to make money.

Read “Downhill Slide” by Hal Clifford, or see the video “Resorting to Madness,” recently shown at the Truckee Community center. Second, to call the development a “conservation community” and “gateway to nature” is an insult to our intelligence. How can you have conservation by degrading the environment? How do you build 950 units without cutting down trees? I suppose you could build tree houses. Also, creating new roads, parking lots, driveways and other “hardscapes” causes increased runoff, which in turn increases soil erosion and pollution and increases the risk of floods.

Remember, the people downstream rely on this water for drinking. The writer says they want to create a “gateway to nature” ” this is ludicrous, we already live in nature and can already access it.

Here are some specific points I’d like to address regarding the column:

1. Public input ” When you survey people, using all positives and no negatives, this produces outcomes favorable to development. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that if you look at their survey questions at, it does not allow for negative input.

2. Three meetings held in March. ” When Foster-Syme spoke in grand generalizations and used the color “green” to show the proposed development area, they created a slick PR campaign that lent itself to slanted information. They would not take questions at these meetings and simply stated that they would have break-out groups to answer our questions and concerns after their presentation. It was a snow job from the beginning. The break-out groups provided little information or discussion. In fact some residents got wind of the previous two meetings, and at the third meeting people got hostile, because Foster-Syme were not answering questions nor providing pertinent information.

3. “Many people say we are headed in the right direction…” I find this statement hard to believe when the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association (SLPOA) surveyed almost 1,000 people and the result was the mirror opposite of theirs. In fact, only two people were in favor of the development. Was their sample representative? They would not give us their methodology on how the surveys were conducted, citing proprietary information. So their “results” should be viewed skeptically.

4. “Ski Camp: We will not propose a downhill ski area portal at Royal Gorge resembling ‘a corporate template of a modern ski resort.'” Yes, their plan clearly indicated on their map four specific downhill trails and will have a portal to Sugar Bowl. Please, please, please let’s not get into semantics. It is what it is: A portal, whether it’s a template or not.

5. “70 percent of the Royal Gorge property that will remain permanent open space…” Ask the writer how he defines open space. At a recent meeting, he defined open space to include unbuildable areas e.g., Van Norden meadow, ski runs with lifts, and acreage on private properties. Therefore, if you own five acres and build a house on one, the four would be defined as open space under the Foster-Syme plan. They do have the decency not to include decks.

6. “We encourage Donner Summit residents, those with second homes, and others who care about Donner Summit to talk to us…” How can you talk to a group who do not want to discuss their plans with you nor give you any straight answers, if they decide to answer at all?

Scaring us into legal submission is not going to work. We are a passionate community who want to do the right thing for the environment and its residents. We are mobilizing quickly and people are now “walking the talk.” We have plans to raise awareness throughout California by e.g., eliciting help from pro-environmental politicians (NOTE: Foster Syme have contributed to many anti-environmental politicians, see and we are planning several fund-raising events for our legal defense.

We’re also a very diverse community with many talents. We have biologists, hydrologists, environmentalists, county officials, lawyers, and yes, even some developers who can’t easily be snowed.

I ask this question of the writer, “How can so many people and organizations such as Sierra Watch, Sierra Club, and the South Yuba River Citizens League, to name a few, all be on the same page in opposition if this is such a great plan?”

I do give the writer credit, as a paid employee of Foster-Syme, you’re very good at “green-washing.” I guess that’s why developers hired you. Keep this in mind, where we differ from Squaw Valley and Northstar is that we were never defined as a ski community ” and we don’t wish to be.

To quote Upton Sinclair, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Rod Day has been a resident of Serene Lakes since 1995.

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