A proposal to develop a large destination resort on the southeast slope of Mount Adams is under review by Yakama Tribal officials.
The concept of an "eco-resort" on Mount Adams was conceived by the Mount Hood Meadows Development Corp., an Oregon corporation with offices in Portland and Mount Hood.
According to Dave Riley, vice president and general manager of Mount Hood Meadows Development Corp., the idea was formally presented to tribal leaders in June.
The proposal calls for 2,500 housing units, comprising hotel rooms, home sites, and condominiums; eight chair-lifts for skiing; one gondola; one tram; three 18-hole golf courses; a casino; a spa; and the Yakama Nation Institute of Learning.
"It would be an international destination eco-resort," Riley said.
The land where the resort would be developed is owned by the Yakama Nation, and would require approval from tribal members before the project could move forward.
"I have met several times with tribal leaders," said Riley. "We presented a master plan proposal to a committee of different tribal members and leaders. They have been analyzing it. It will take some time for them to evaluate what they want to do."
The Yakamas own 21,000 acres on Mount Adams, historically referred to as "Tract D." The land, once part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, was added to the Yakama reservation in an executive order from President Richard Nixon in 1972. About 10,000 acres of the total was part of the Mount Adams Wilderness area, which the tribe pledged to maintain.
The draft plan for the Mount Adams resort spreads over approximately 11,000 acres of Yakama land.
"That is the total boundary. It's not 11,000 acres of development by any means," Riley explained. "It would be a fraction of that."
All of the land in the proposed resort area is in Yakima County.
Acey Oberly, superintendent of the Yakama Agency in Toppenish, pointed out that the decision on whether to accept or reject the planned resort was solely the decision of the Yakama Nation.
"It's up to the tribe," Oberly said. "There has been no decision in terms of anything definite. I've talked to the chair [of the Tribal Council]; he has been meeting with different groups. It will come to the Tribal Council and they'll decide. Whatever they decide will be taken to the people. Anything considered a matter of great importance has to be taken to the General Council, and this would be."
Oberly said there was no timetable as to when the tribe would make its decision.
"It's not on table for consideration yet," he explained. "The council meets on the first Tuesday of October, and I'm not sure it's on the agenda then. Right now they're just listening to the offer."
Riley said Mount Hood Meadows would develop and operate the resort, in partnership with the Yakama Nation.
The tribe would remain "owner of the land in perpetuity, and the company becomes the long-term developer and operator of the resort," according to Riley.
Riley said no map outlining the resort had yet been released to the public.
"The plans may change based on the tribe's input," Riley explained.
The concept of a major resort on Mount Adams is drawing fire from those who value the pristine nature of the area, which includes Bird Creek Meadows, a natural treasure to many.
"These flowering alpine meadows, which gird the southeast slopes to Mount Adams' snow line, have lured those who love mountain beauty at its best -- even before the coming of the white man," wrote local historian Keith McCoy in a 1996 essay about Mount Adams. "The delicate beauty of the meadows was spotlighted by the noted botanist Wilhelm Suksdorf."
Darryl Lloyd, a former Glenwood resident and president of "Friends of Pah-to," an organization formed to protect the mountain in the early 1970s, expressed shock and dismay over the proposed resort.
"I think the Mount Hood Meadows Development Corp.'s proposal is an absolute outrage," Lloyd said. "But at this point, as spokesman for Friends of Pah-to, I can only hope and pray that the Yakama Nation will want to continue with their longtime wilderness and primitive recreation management policy for the reservation portion of Mount Adams. Thousands across the continent treasure that area in its wild state."
"It's a situation of a sovereign nation on reservation land," Riley said. "No matter what some people may want to say, this is really the tribe's decision, and for anyone to tell the tribe what they can or cannot do would be inappropriate. It's their decision."
In a recent news release from Mount Hood Meadows Development Corp., the proposed resort was lauded as potentially one of the finest skiing sites in the world.
"In terms of vertical rise, it's the largest in North and South America, with 5,700 vertical feet of lift-served terrain possible," it read. "That beats all resorts in America and the quality of the ski terrain is absolutely incredible."
According to Lloyd, a large portion of the proposed development would be within the boundaries of the wilderness area.
"This is from the same outfit that proposed a destination resort for Cooper Spur on Mount Hood," Lloyd said. "That was tiny compared to the scope of this. They don't look at that area as a wild treasure."