Opinion: Clarifying my comments on proposed Squaw-Alpine gondola
Special to the Sun
I am a psychiatrist. My job involves paying attention and interpreting things on different levels to achieve the overall goal of helping others.
When assessing problems, I focus on the individual, but also on the broad system around them, to determine where intervention needs to happen to improve the overall outcome. The reason I am involved in the issues surrounding the future of Squaw Valley is because I feel strongly in helping us all find an outcome that improves the quality of life for all those who live and visit here, and all those who will live and visit here.
My comments in the Sierra Sun article this week regarding the base to base gondola came across as polarizing, and I would like to clarify my stance.
I believe that in social systems polarization is a negative and destructive force. That being said, there is a fine line between being honest and open and being polarizing. My goal with my efforts in Squaw Valley is not to polarize, but to help cultivate a social system of trust in which all parties respect the views and opinions of others, and can feel free to contribute to a diversity of ideas that are desperately needed to lead towards a best possible outcome.
To be clear, I’m not opposed to the base to base gondola. In fact, at times I feel a sense of excitement anticipating the rides I’ll have with my children as we scope the amazing terrain on Troy Caldwell’s property.
As an aside — back when I first moved here, my brother and I called Troy and asked if we could ski on his property. He met us with a smile as he opened his gate, and let us park our car in front of his garage before we headed out and skied his amazing backyard.
Ever since, I have had the opportunity to become friends with Troy and I have a profound respect and trust for him. If anyone was going to be behind this project, I feel that Troy has the qualities to do it right.
For all of us, every thought, opinion, and feeling we have is nuanced. For me, the excitement about the project is also countered by my environmental self. I am concerned about such a lift grazing the boundaries of wilderness.
I’m concerned that each new generation of developers believe they are offering something unique and special and that once their job is done, development and expansion in these sensitive areas will somehow magically stop.
I’m concerned that the biases that come with development not just from the excitement but also from financial rewards can lead us all down the path of justifying expansion into pristine lands.
I’m concerned that the true value of land comes from its natural state and when we tread upon it, we mine that value away.
With all of this in mind, I also feel that the community deserves to have a dream come to fruition and that if that communal vision is connecting the two mountains, that it should happen. If that occurs, the global improvement in mindset could potentially lead us toward a community process in which we listen to each other, safely disagree with each other, battle with each other, authentically communicate with each other, and ultimately reach a goal with each other.
I have faith this community can reach that level and that learning to manage the polarizing elements over the last few years is one evolutionary step in that direction.
Robb Gaffney, M.D., is a Tahoe City resident and former employee at Squaw Valley. He is the author og “Squallywood: A Guide to Squaw Valley’s Most Exposed Lines.”
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