My Turn: Public input is shaping Royal Gorge plans |

My Turn: Public input is shaping Royal Gorge plans

Reading what two Sierra Sun guest columnists recently had to say about Royal Gorge development plans, I too would be against the plans the authors described – and I’m the Royal Gorge project manager.

Fortunately, what the writers describe is not what Royal Gorge has in mind.

I completely understand how the two writers and others have jumped to incorrect conclusions about what may be proposed by Royal Gorge.

Royal Gorge made a commitment from the start to conduct ourselves with transparency, to seek public input early and often, and to share our planning direction with the public before anyone else. We talked to hundreds of individuals and groups before we ever started planning a project. We told people we would come back to them with a conceptual outline before we finalized our planning and before we submitted anything to Placer County.

In March, we held three meetings to share concepts with the public. We couldn’t provide all the details at that time because we haven’t finished planning yet. Some people don’t trust developers and they decided to fill in the details themselves with dire, worst-case scenarios.

These scenarios include high-rise condominium tower units, clear-cutting thousands of trees, large-scale urban commercial development and all sorts of other visions that don’t fit Royal Gorge or Donner Summit.

We are still poring over the comments provided by the several hundred people who attended the March meetings. We have produced a summary report of the comments that is now posted on the Web site at

We are continuing to refine our plans and to develop the details, and these will be made available to the public. We’ve also had the opportunity to consider survey information collected by the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association Board of Directors. While the two surveys are not perfectly consistent, there are common themes and concerns.

Range of opinion: Many people say we are headed in the right direction.- Others disagree. Our conceptual plans produced a range of opinion, all the way from people who want a golf course, to others who want nothing new built at all.

Ski Camp: We will not propose a downhill ski area portal at Royal Gorge resembling “a corporate template of a modern ski resort,” as one guest columnist wrote. A 100,000 square-foot destination retail village would be out of place on Donner Summit. At “Ski Camp” we hope to provide a few community and neighborhood services, such as a small country store, a coffee shop, another restaurant or a small retail store.

How big: Our concept plans identified a variety of densities in various areas and a total project unit-count, so it’s understandable that there’s a lot of focus on total number of units as the only indication of “how big” the new development will be. But there are many ways to measure size. To be compatible with existing neighborhoods, it’s also important to look at the height, mass, proximity and footprints of buildings, the degree to which tree-cover helps to screen them from each other and from surrounding land uses, and how imaginative, appropriate mountain architecture might be incorporated. These matters have yet to be defined through our planning efforts. But everyone will have ample time and opportunity to consider them in the future.

Conservation community: We are serious about creating a conservation community and we intend to continue planning in that direction. Preserving open space, pursuing low-impact development techniques, resource conservation, water quality protection, and a healthy forest initiative are some of the features we anticipate incorporating. The preservation and enhancement of outdoor recreation opportunities are also fundamental to our philosophy, as is identifying a funding mechanism to manage and protect more than 70 percent of the Royal Gorge property that will remain permanent open space following development.

Community dialogue will produce a better plan: We came to the public so early in our planning that we have as yet made no proposal to the county even two years after acquiring the property. After we do, we will continue working with the community. The early comments various groups and individuals have provided to us have had significant effects on our thinking, and we want to keep the dialogue going.-

We encourage Donner Summit residents, those with second homes there, and others who care about Donner Summit to talk with us. We all want a plan that will allow future generations to continue to explore and enjoy this spectacular place in the Sierra.

-Mike Livak is senior vice president/project director for Royal Gorge. He grew up in Reno and has worked and lived in the Truckee-Tahoe area since 1990. He lives with his wife and two children in Truckee.

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