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(Above) Aerial view of the Hatchery, a primo windsurfing beach — and proposed Broughton Landing site. Photo courtesy of Wilton Hart. Find more of The Hart’s windsurfing photos and info here. (Below) Temira Wagonfeld, 'surfing the Gorge. Photo by Jon Malmberg, "a darn good sports photographer" from Hood River.

Windsurfers’ Bane or Gorge Jewel?

Guest Opinion by Temira Wagonfeld

Sixty acres of bustling resort across the street from the Hatchery? A community for vacationing wealthy outdoor enthusiasts, where the average home is expected to sell for $392,000?

I’m semi-professional sailor living at the poverty line. When the news of a huge new Gorge resort reached me, my first reaction was utter disgust. The Gorge, the Hatchery, these are temples. This land isn’t a tourist trap – it’s a place to pay homage to Mother Nature.

My gut instinct tells me that we should fight this proposal with every weapon we can muster. However, we are probably fighting a losing battle. Outdoor enthusiasts may not like the Broughton Landing Master Plan, but it is not going to go away. It may even be a good idea. Abandoned buildings and swathes of concrete already blemish the site. This refuse is no more part of the National Scenic Area than is a discreet recreational resort. If development near the Hatchery can’t be stopped, the best course of action is to work with the developer. Input from windsurfers and environmentalists will minimize the impact of this project and make it beneficial to all.

Why the pessimisim? Why the certainty that Broughton Landing will come to be? Should the Gorge Commission veto the current proposal, Broughton’s owners plan to ask Congress for an amendment to the Scenic Act. Given the current political environment, Congress will likely authorize Broughton’s request. As of now, Broughton Landing only uses 60 acres. If Congress steps in, the entire 260 acre parcel will be exempt from the Scenic Act. Broughton Landing will become Broughton Town. Gorge residents will be forced to lay down the welcome mat for a new town, open to full development.

Something will be built on this land, whether it is the maximum allowed by current law, the Broughton Landing project or a Bingen-sized town. Hopefully, Broughton will build Venice, not Pittsburg. Rise to the occasion, Broughton Lumber!

Be environmentally conscious. Build a model recreational community. Serve all outdoor enthusiasts, not just the wealthy few who will be able to afford the “relatively high unit prices (per square foot) and high HOA fees” discussed in the master plan.

Environmentalists fear that Broughton Landing will open the floodgates for development within the Scenic Area. This can’t happen unless Broughton is driven to Congress for an amendment to the Scenic Act, and other developers follow. According to a Broughton representative, “there are only four sites in the Gorge zoned Recreational Commercial. One is 15 acres, and the other two are less than 5 acres. None of the other sites is an abandoned industrial site.” Bound by financial, acreage and zoning limitations, these other property owners can’t attempt a project of Broughton’s scale. So concerns about Broughton Landing setting a precedent are likely unfounded.

Broughton Raises Environmental Worries — But Potential Solutions, Too

Hatchery windsurfers worry they’ll be sailing in sewage. It’s a valid concern, to some extent. Broughton’s master plan states “the on-site treatment will generate wastewater that will be clean enough to use for underground irrigation and discharge into the Columbia River with minimal water quality impact and no odor.” However, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, this “B” quality wastewater isn’t clean enough to use for “flush toilets”, let alone to swim in. Granted, we already sail in a river contaminated with pesticides, sewage, and the occasional nuclear waste particle, but there’s no need to dirty the river more. Broughton should purify wastewater to “A” quality. Such water would be useful for irrigation, and wouldn’t impact windsurfers or wildlife downstream.

Wastewater isn’t the only potential pollution from Broughton Landing. Drivers and stargazers alike worry about light pollution. Street lamps and household lights will pinpoint Broughton’s location from across the Gorge. New trees, rendering the Landing invisible during daylight, will do nothing to disguise the city glow at night. How will Broughton diminish the impact after dark, when the glow of streetlights creates another artificial patch of day in the Gorge?

People familiar with the S-bend on Washington’s State Route 14 shake their heads at Broughton’s placement of entrances and exits. Are drivers on SR 14 looking at a traffic nightmare? Possibly. Entrances to Broughton Landing sit at either end of an S-curve in the road. It’s unclear from the Master Plan how Broughton plans to address the traffic situation. An ideal solution won’t involve new stoplights.

Environmentalists question Broughton’s commitment to sustainability. “Rehabilitating existing buildings and incorporating on-site materials” isn’t enough. Broughton could build with recycled materials. They could reduce power consumption. As of now, there is nothing in the master plan discussing use of alternative energy sources. A windmill could provide pollution-free power, solar panels could heat water for homes and passive solar systems could heat the pool. Homes could come complete with low-power fluorescent bulbs, and public facilities could bask in the light of solar-powered LED banks. Used fryer oil from the restaurant could become biodiesel to power Broughton Landing vehicles. The Landing could set a truly sustainable precedent.

Broughton is on the right track with their conservation fund, intended to develop community recreation and create conservation easements around the resort. However, “funding will be an obligation of the unit buyer,” not of Broughton Lumber. Broughton’s impact on the Gorge will earn the company millions of dollars. As thanks, they could match contributions, creating a sizeable fund for Gorge conservation.

Simple Changes Would Go A Long Way

Simple changes to the project, such as those above, will ease concerns of many nay-sayers. If Gorge residents agree to the project, surrounding communities and existing Hatchery users deserve Broughton’s help as well.

Windsurfers, directly affected by the development, should reap lasting benefits. Broughton offers a parking lot, but Hatchery sailors don’t often need more parking. Busy on holidays, the Hatchery is almost never full during the week. Paving a huge patch of land that will be used infrequently in summer, and never during winter, is a bad idea. Sanctioning parking on Broughton-owned land is a good idea, but the parking spaces are nothing new. Hatchery late-comers have parked on Broughton land for years.

Broughton can do better than making the existing parking situation official. Allowing inexpensive overnight camping, much like what Hood River once offered at the Marina, is a better idea. Windsurfing tourist visits plummeted in the last ten years, perhaps due to lack of affordable overnight options. Windsurfers might return in hoards if they had choice. No more expensive campgrounds and sixty-dollar hotels. No more sleeping in cars on city streets or in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Provide showers and car-camping, and the college students and surf bums, the people who made Hood River what it is, just might return.

In addition to a parking lot, a bus to and from Hood River would be appreciated. Public gear-storage lockers could complement bus service. Windsurfers could keep gear on-site, burning less gas in their oversized vans and eliminating some of the expected traffic. If the bus ran all night, people from Broughton Landing could go to Hood River, enjoy a night on the town, and contribute to the local economy without worrying about driving intoxicated. Local communities and businesses benefit from this plan, as do Hatchery sailors.

Broughton Landing has the opportunity to benefit local residents as well as local communities. The climbing wall, the beach, the courts and spa facilities could be opened to local residents at reduced rates. Broughton residents will come to our established towns and use our facilities at reasonable rates. It’s only fair that their “town” should be open to Gorge residents on the same terms.

Broughton needs to openly address the concerns of worried windsurfers and skeptical Gorge residents. If they do so, Broughton Landing could be a brilliant success, benefiting both newcomers and long-term residents alike. Instead of angering local residents and environmentalists, the Landing could be a model community, welcoming visitors and benefiting local communities. With a few simple modifications to the existing plan, this project could be something we can all stand behind.

••••••••••••••

Temira “Two Mirrors” Wagonfeld is a champion windsurfer, an international traveler and a cultural ambassador between Hood River and the town of Tsuruta, Aomori, Japan. She’s also an elementary school teacher, a journalist and a web designer. Check out Temira’s journal, which includes windsurfing articles and her life in Japan. This is her first article for New West Columbia Gorge.

About Temira

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4 comments

  1. O my God! This concerned windsurfer is (1) living at the poverty line but earning a teacher’s salary (typically above the average income locally), and (2) rich enough to afford windsurfing gear (not cheap) and travel the world, but can’t afford to pay $60 for a room. Poor thing.

    Dealing with development in the NSA, there is little chance Broughton’s will not seriously focus on environmental issues. What the windsurfers are really concerned about is having more people and traffic to deal with at one of their favorite sailing locations. But “they” don’t own any of the land at the Hatchery; the Hatchery itself (a national fish hatchery established in 1901) allows them to overflow their parking area and use it’s river access; the overflow has squatted on Broughton land for years, increasing that company’s potential for looting and fires in its buildings. Now that they are considering using their own land again, the windsurfers are freaking about how it will limit their use of the area. They’re doing the same thing with Burlington-Northern’s property at Doug’s Beach, as they have done in the past with the Port of Hood River.

    Ms. Wagonfeld’s comments that IF Broughton’s makes a bunch of concessions to the windsurfer’s and environmentalists demands, “the college students and surf bums, the people who made Hood River what it is, just might return.” Who asked them to? What the hell makes you think the college students and surf bums made Hood River what it is?! Hood River has grown and developed quite a bit since 1984, when the “surf bums” started coming here, but we have been here since the late 1800s, and have seen repeated infiltration of new people and sports and fads. We were a town long before skiing, windsurfing and mountain biking came along. Although we have welcomed the windsurfers as we have welcomed every other new group into town, don’t deceive yourself into thinking you’re invaluable to us. We have and can live without you.

    Kudos to Broughton Lumber for their patience and dedication to developing a classy resort property in the Columbia River Gorge. Those “college students and surf bums” managed to boycott their development in Hood River, much to the disgust of the locals who would have liked to see the jobs here. I wish them success with this project. Natives are more concerned with economic development so our kids can work and live here, than furthering the lofty ambitions of the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge (most of whom live in Portland and Seattle) and the Gorge Commission.

    Good luck working with those developers, Ms. Wagonfeld; I know they look forward to seeing you coming, but much to your surprise, probably not because of your views on the environment, but rather your selfish, narrow views on who can use their own land and how.

  2. I think the article and Melanee’s response offer opposite views and their comments reveal their prejudices. I’m also a windsurfer and have a different view.

    Certainly it is OK to implement reasonable zoning restrictions, but the CGNSA has essentially and unjustly stolen property from landowners. It’s ridiculous to think that the Broughton site cannot be developed in a way that compliments its natural surroundings. It’s development could even potentially increase available parking space at the Hatchery, because those staying or living at the resort may not need to utilize the existing spaces. Additionally it benefits the economy in the Gorge in both it’s construction and the ongoing jobs that will be created.

    Which leads me to another point. The bias that some have against windsurfers is an unfounded generalization. Yes, windsurfing, skiing, mountain biking, etc. has changed the Gorge. People coming to the area to participate in these activities are responsible for revitalizing a virtually dead economy.

    Have there been negative impacts, yes. For example, the area has more traffic and housing prices/real estate taxes are astronomical. However ,the escalating cost of living, while a symptom of strong economic growth, is not the problem. Poor tax policy and restriction of construction in large areas, decisions of the voters, are responsible for these negatives. A vibrant economy and affordable living can coexist with better policy.

    The situation with Burlington-Northern’s at Doug’s Beach is a different situation. Doug’s Beach is a WA state park and the railroads adding of additional tracks, now in process, reduces parking in an often already crowded site while adding safety concerns for users of the park. Taxpayers and park users also paid for improvements to the park, including the parking area, which the railroad is wiping out without financial compensation. There is plenty of parking space across the street and a good compromise would have been to develop this parking and create a short area of reduced speed limit or maybe a walkway over the highway. This situation became a power struggle rather than groups working to find a mutually beneficial solution.

  3. Laurie L. Balmuth

    I attended one of the first Gorge Commission meetings proposing a destination resort at the old Broughton Mill Site adjacent to the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery in White Salmon Washington.

    The Stevenson family, owners of the defunct mill, are asking the Gorge Commission to change its rules and permit 150,000 sq foot of buildings, a minimum of 260 housing units, laundry, shops and restaurants, to be built at this site. Skamania Chamber of Commerce and County officials spoke in favor of the development and stated plainly that they want the tax revenues. No other factors were cited and no recognition of the existence of the Scenic Area was mentioned by Skamania County.

    Although the Broughton Mill is next to some of the premier windsurfing sites in the world, Gorge Commission never mentioned windsurfing. When asked, the promoters stated that the importance of windsurfing did not factor in plans for development

    The Broughton Mill site is already designated commercial recreational. This designation allows 35 housing units, 100 or so RV sites and a couple of 5,000 sq foot restaurant buildings. Stevensons let their permit expire because they are not satisfied with a development that is manageable in size but rather want to put in a de facto town. Such a town will compete with existing urban areas for business. Water, sewer, traffic and other infrastructure problems will ultimately be the responsibility of Skamania County; a high price for promised tax dollars. Jobs were not mentioned by the promoters or the County, nor were issues of recreational impact on windsurfing, health issues, or the existence of the Scenic Area and what that means.

    The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a narrow strip of land on either side of the Columbia River, has been designated as such in order to preserve its natural beauty and allow a maximum number of people to enjoy the Gorge by facilitating recreational access. The existence of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area is why there is scenery here instead of wall-to-wall destination resorts. Most of us live in, or enjoy The Gorge as visitors because of the awesome landscape, and for the windsurfing and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

    As stated in the law the purpose of the Gorge Act is to protect scenic and recreational resources in the Scenic Area. In order to protect those things commercial development is prohibited outside urban areas like Hood River, White Salmon, Stevenson, Lyle, Mosier and others. The economic growth of existing urban areas are supposed to be enhanced under the Scenic act, while the rest of the area is protected from development.

    The location of the proposed resort, adjacent to the Columbia River and the Hatchery causes health problems and windsurfing problems. The Hatchery is already very crowded, both on the water and in the parking lot. 600 to 1000 additional sailors and their cars would make sailing suicide, if you could get near the place. Then there is the water quality issue. A great many windsurfing sites in the Third World suffer from filthy water because of over development. Across the river the Hood River sewage plant outflow, supposedly completely treated, loads the area with slime. Broughton developers plan to place the sewer outflow upriver of the windsurfing launch, in the lagoon, where children play and swim. This disgusting prospect does not seem to bother the promoters one bit.

    Many people at the meeting spoke out against the project. Still, some folks seem not to ‘get’ the fact that the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area is a special place, a designated national treasure. It is not “ ‘just like’ Sun Valley or Aruba, or Miami or even Bend”. The perception of the Gorge Commission as an agency that spends most of its resources hassling citizens about the color they want to paint their outhouses; while dodging bigger issues like the railroads or the casino, or big money wanting to change the rules for private gain, does not help, either.

    The cumulative effect of this proposal, the Hood River Event Site filling in with silt, the Hood River Marina already filled in with silt, a proposed casino in Cascade Locks, the railroad siding the Gorge Commission allowed a to be built at Doug’s Beach where over half the parking was eliminated, and the fact that railroads currently cut off river access 100% on both sides of the Columbia the with only a few crossings, shows that citizens must speak out. Public agencies respond to whoever makes the most noise, has possession of the most facts, and, yes, raises the most money.

    Take heart. Citizen action did prevent a Wal Mart Superstore in Hood River and a destination resort on Mt. Hood. A park is going to be built where the Port of Hood River wanted to build condos 10 feet from the river. These victories were paid for with thousands of citizen hours attending meetings, gathering signatures on petitions and raising funds to support groups like the Friends of the Gorge, Columbia River Keeper, No Big Box Stores, and many others. The lesson we have learned is “Don’t rely on public agencies “ They neither inform citizens of their legal mandate nor do they aggressively fight to protect the public

    . If you are interested you can look on the Gorge Commission website and read the rules and the purposes of the Act. Especially these rules:

    Chapter 6 of the Gorge Act sets forth Commercial Recreational Policies in the General Management Area (where Broughton is located) However Section 1B refers to Part 1 Chapter 4 of the Special Management Policy Guidelines #5. This means that because Broughton, the Hatchery and Swell City are adjacent they are considered one site. This use limited to 1,000 people and 250 cars at any one time.

    The proposed development is against the law as it stands. Developers are pressuring the Gorge Commission to change the laws just for them. This is unfair to the hundreds of thousands of visitors and to those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Gorge. The Scenic Area is something special. We need to work hard to keep it that way

  4. When we started windsurfing in the Gorge in the mid 1980’s we had a blast. What a wonderful sport and close to home! However it has amazed us how the communities of the prime windsurfing sites have failed to understand that they have for windsurfing what Aspen has for skiing. Most communities, in the world, would be elated to have what Hood River and it’s neighbors have. Guess they do not like the revenue stream the windsurfing community brings. Maybe more of the citizens should learn the sport and maybe they would understand what they have yet continually are trying to destroy it.