My Turn: Royal Gorge proposal is nothing more than ‘forest sprawl’ | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Royal Gorge proposal is nothing more than ‘forest sprawl’

Emily Wexler

Who would have thought that our serene mountain neighborhood would become the darling of a development company? When we purchased our house in 2001, our Realtor warned us of the maladies that awaited us on Donner Summit; more snow than anyone can imagine, the shortest gardening season in California and a mosquito season of biblical proportions. She showed us many lovely properties in Tahoe Donner, with less snow, less hassle and more facilities.

“They have a golf course, Trout Creek Recreation Center, horseback riding, downhill and cross country skiing, what more could a young couple want?”

I wasn’t clear about why we chose instead to live on Donner Summit until the discussions about massive development began.

The Foster/Syme Royal Gorge Expansion plan comes complete with similar resort amenities to Tahoe Donner, a small, hardly challenging, downhill area, beautiful cross country skiing, a commercial center, shuttle service, man-made lake front property and a few new ideas, a park, a history and nature interpretive center and even a fishing cabin in the heart of the mosquito zone.

What the plan lacks entirely is an appreciation of why people who choose to live here do so: Serenity, and enough obstacles to keep the rest of the world at bay.

I am not a no-growth extremist, and I do believe that the government should allow private property owners to develop their land if they are so inclined. Obviously, Foster/Syme is in the business of land development and would like to make a profit on their investment. It is clear from the alleged “conservation” plan that they believe they need ski lifts in order to make a profit. This is the way that modern ski resorts continue grow. They purchase an adjoining parcel, place a lift to it and voila, hundreds of million dollar housing units are sold. Man-made lake front property has a similar appeal.

The current plan’s centerpiece is an area called “Ski Camp,” some 600-plus units with the money making lifts placed in virgin forest. “Lake Camp” has two manmade lakes with high density at the profit making shorelines and what can only be termed “forest sprawl:” forest dappled with home sites in densities that increase as you approach the manmade lake shores. The remainder of the plan includes more home sites littering the forest. These also have a predicted high return on investment because even though there are only a few of them they have either fabulous views of the Royal Gorge or the almighty money-maker, ski lifts associated with them.

Let me suggest a strategy that will allow the developers their rightfully due profit and “conserve” the serene atmosphere that attracted the original 800 or so residents to this underdeveloped area: Contain the sprawl and develop in already developed areas.

” Emily Wexler is a homeowner in Serene Lakes.