Wild and Free Bulletin


Number 4

September 3, 2003


In this Issue

Wild & Free events on the calendar

September 19: Wild & Free Social Night at McFadden's Pub
Meet fellow Cooper Spurions! Check out the newest pub in downtown Portland.  McFadden's will be matching what we raise, so bring your friends, co-workers, and family
Date Friday, September 19th
Time 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Where The Brand New McFadden's Pub located at 107 NW Couch St 
Cost $5 gets you a free appetizer buffet, one free draft beer or soda, and $2 drinks.  McFadden's will be matching a percentage of what we raise 
September 25: A Celebration of Mt. Hood: Past, Present, and Future
Cooper Spur Wild & Free Coalition and Patagonia invite you to an evening on the northeast side of Mt. Hood. Join us for refreshments, the slide show A Celebration of Mt. Hood: Past, Present and Future," and a Cooper Spur Update

Free giveaways throughout the evening!

Co-sponsors: ClimbMax, ClubSport, Bark, Mazamas, Sierra Club, Oregon Nordic Club, Lower Columbia Canoe Club, and Oregon Natural Resources Council

Date Thursday, September 25
Time 7:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.  Refreshments served

7:30 p.m. 8:30 p.m. Introduction and Slide Show

8:30 p.m. 9:30 p.m. Discussion Panel

Where Patagonia at the Eco-Trust Building, Pearl District, 919 NW Irving St.  Suite 100
October 25: The long awaited Save the Spur Summer, I mean, Fall Fest! 
Music by Whiskey Puppy - old-timey and bluegrass, Sevenanda - gypsy jungle jazz, Schicky Gnarowitz - stomping Greek/klezmer/Ukraino-Russian frenzy-folk, Children of Paradise - tribal bellydance music with belly dancing by Regina Firedancing and more!

Puppet show by Penny and Harlan 

Raffle throughout the night.

Date Saturday, October 25
Time 7pm 'til late
Where Alberta Arts Pavilion, 2315 NE Alberta, Portland
Cost $10 at the door, no host bar and food

Summer activities open tentatively at Cooper Spur Ski Area: on, off, on again

This summer, the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, managed by Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area, opened summer activities on Cooper Spur. For the first time, mechanically assisted hiking and mountain biking were offered at Cooper Spur ski area. A brochure and map distributed by the resort celebrates the scenic beauty of the place, while telling visitors to please not disturb the wildflowers and ride with caution down a trail that features mountain bike jumps and obstacles. The map also directs mountain bikers to the TIlly Jane and the Polallie Ridge Trails.

Conservation-minded citizens only learned of the summer operations when they visited the area, even though they had stressed to the Forest Service the importance of being informed of Forest Service decisions for the Cooper Spur Ski Area in a meeting with Daina Bambe, the District Ranger, just one month earlier.

The Forest Service subsequently rescinded authorization to conduct summer activities at Cooper at the request of Chris Winter of Cascade Resources Advocacy Group (CRAG). In her response, Daina Bambe also informed Ralph Bloemers of CRAG that mountain biking would not be part of the proposed summer operations because of the detrimental environmental consequences. But a later scoping letter issued on July 29 by Daina Bambe sought comments about activities including mountain biking. A response written on behalf of the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club expressed disappointment over the inconsistency and explained how the proposed summer activities are incompatible with the historic and environmental values and the existing backcountry uses of the area.

Lift-assisted hiking and mountain biking are clearly outside the scope of the 1983 Master Plan for the Cooper Spur Ski Area, which allows winter operations for skiing. Doug Jones, permit specialist with the Forest Service, said that permission to conduct summer activities would remain withheld until the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort submits a proposal for a new master plan leading to a process for review and public comments. No such proposal had been received by the Forest Service as of early August.

For a short while, concerned citizens who sent letters and e-mail to the Forest Service in response to Daina Bambe's request for comments could feel satisfied that their comments may have helped to suspend a unilateral expansion of commercial operations by the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. The expectation was that such a change in scope of operations at Cooper Spur Ski Area must be done with the participation of the public, the actual owner of the land.

But in the latest development, Daina Bambe, the Mt. Hood National Forest District Ranger, issued a decision memo on August 22 that authorizes lift-assisted hiking and music concerts. In the making the decision, the District Ranger asserted that no new master plan is required, and that the decision could not be appealed, citing specific paragraphs in Forest Service policy on both points. The decision memo states that mountain biking was mentioned in the July 29 scoping letter in error; lift-assisted mountain biking is not authorized, and the permit holder (Meadows North, LLC) will not promote this activity, although mountain biking on the Tilly Jane and Pollalie Ridge trails is not prohibited.

In making the decision, the District Ranger cited Forest Service policy at FSM 2343.11(1) to: "Encourage summertime use of ski area facilities where that use is compatible with or enhances natural resource-based recreation opportunities and does not require additional specialized facilities". In the case of Cooper Spur, this policy and the August 22 decision is dramatically inconsistent with the wishes of many citizens, neighbors, and backcountry visitors to the area.

A crucial opportunity for citizen participation is coming

The summer activities scoping and decision memo by the Forest Service are a preview of a much more important dialog that will take place this Fall or Winter.  The 1983 master plan that governs operations at Cooper Spur Ski Area is due to be reviewed following a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that requires the Forest Service to solicit comments from the public.  Mt. Hood Meadows is expected to propose a plan to expand the Cooper Spur Ski Area beyond the current 50 acres into the 1400 acre special use permit area, threatening the historic Tilly Jane Trail, Polallie Ridge Trail, and the surrounding forest.  It will be crucial for every concerned citizen to become involved at that stage to let the Forest Service know how they feel about private development at the expense of our public, natural heritage. When the time comes, there will be more information in e-bulletins and Action Alerts to let you know how you can help.

ONRC presents Oregon Wild Campaign for Mt. Hood

The Oregon Natural Resources Council and the Oregon Wild Forest Coalition, a coalition of conservation organizations, held public meetings last month announcing a new proposal to permanently protect the remaining wild forests surrounding Mt. Hood and in the Columbia Gorge.  While Mt. Hood National Forest contains over 2,600 clearcuts and 4,355 miles of roads, there still exist some roadless areas with old-growth forests that are not currently protected as wilderness.  It is these places that the new Mt. Hood Wilderness proposal seeks to protect, including

The Mt. Hood Wilderness proposal is just one of 32 proposed wilderness areas that make up the Oregon Wild Campaign, which includes many roadless areas in the state that are 1000 acres and larger.  Of the 1million acres of federally managed forests  (National Forest, and Bureau of Land Management forests) in Oregon, 5 million acres are suitable for wilderness designation but currently do not have such protection.  Wilderness protection for these forests will preserve important watersheds which currently supply clean drinking water for over one fourth of the residents of the State, encourage the development of sustainable tourism-based economies, ensure suitable habitat for wildlife, and leave a legacy for future Oregonians to enjoy.  

As the nation begins to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark journey next year, the Sierra Club is working to promote a national lands protection package spanning the route of this historic journey.  In Oregon, our lawmakers have an excellent opportunity to make a tribute to these explorers by protecting the forests blanketing the slopes of Mount Hood and in the Columbia Gorge. 

The Oregon Wild Campaign's steering committee includes the participation of many organizations, including ONRC, Audubon Society of Portland, Sierra Club, OSPIRG and others.  The Campaign seeks support in several ways.  Individuals can volunteer to help directly on outreach activities through a sign-up form on the ONRC web site.  Organizations, businesses and other groups can also support the Oregon Wild Campaign by endorsing the project.  Hundreds of organizations have already done so, including conservations groups, retail businesses, churches, recreation outfitters, and others.  Organizations and individuals can also adopt a proposed wilderness area and become principally involved in the protection of that area.  Contact Alex Brown, ONRC's Grassroots Coordinator, at (503) 283-6343 ext. 224 if you would like more information or want to become involved in this exciting campaign. 

Tilly Jane Ski Trail nominated for historic status

In the early 1920s, the American Legion sponsored climbs of Mt. Hood that started by ascending the Tilly Jane Ski Trail, which gave direct access to the American Legion Cookhouse, the upper slopes of Cooper Spur, and the summit.  The Tilly Jane Ski Trail was also used during the snow season by visitors to the Cloud Cap Inn, built in 1889, and the Snowshoe Club Cabin, built in 1910.  In the winter of 1938-1939, members of the Crag Rats marked a wider swath along the trail which was cleared out the next summer by the Civilian Conservation Corps, who also built the A-Frame Ski Warming Hut.  Advanced skiers could then use the Tilly Jane trail to ski down the mountain.  By the 1930s, ski equipment had advanced from eight-foot pine skis with a single seven foot push stick to shorter skis and poles more like those used today.

Last month, a group of citizens submitted documentation to the State Historic Preservation Office to nominate the trail as an addition to the Tilly Jane/Cloud Cap Historic District.  They describe the omission of the trail from the original 1979 nomination as an oversight and a job left unfinished.  The area, including the Cloud Cap Inn, Snowshoe Club Cabin, Tilly Jane Warming Hut, and the Cookhouse, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.  

Today, the Tilly Jane Ski Trail is a popular backcountry ski route that climbs gently, without switchbacks, up a series of unique steps and flats to a broad ridge-top with a number of open parkland settings before it reaches the Cloud Cap/Tilly Jane Recreation Area.  The trail is cut just wide enough for ski descent by an advanced skier, and is noted by many for its aesthetic lay and pitches developed by the early skiers who crafted it.  The backcountry experience of the trail and of the whole northeast side of Mt. Hood are unchanged since the days of the CCC and earlier.  The sweeping, open vistas across Mt. Hood and to near and distant ridges are virtually the same today as they were when the pioneers of the area first saw them.  The old growth forest and open natural parkland on the ridge crest are essentially the same.  Aside from the thinning performed by the CCC when they widened the trail and the clear cutting performed at the Cooper Spur Ski Area, there are no visible areas along the trail that have been cleared or changed by human intervention.  Many modern visitors to this place tell how they feel genuinely connected to early explorers who heard the same birds and saw the same flora and fauna without any mechanical intrusions or visibly altered landscapes.

The Tilly Jane Ski Trail is threatened because it is in the middle of the unexploited Special Use Permit area for the Cooper Spur Ski Area.  Mt. Hood Meadows, the current owner of the permit, has expressed a determination to expand the ski area into the permit area and permanently alter the backcountry qualities of the trail and the surrounding forest with clear-cut ski runs, chair lifts and related modern structures.  Preservation of the trail is a main objective of many who appreciate the wilderness qualities of Cooper Spur.  

For more information, contact Ralph Bloemers, Cascade Resources Advocacy Group, ralph@crag.org.

Hood River County Watershed Initiative to be voted in November

County voters would gain the right to approve any major housing development in zoned forestlands if a watershed protection measure is passed in elections this November.  The measure was placed on the ballot by a citizen's coalition which gathered over 1400 signatures, three times the required amount.

The Let the People Decide, PAC originated the initiative to help protect water quality and the agricultural way of life in Hood River County, famous for its serene orchards and unequalled drinking water quality, such as from Crystal Springs.  The idea is that citizens deserve the right to vote on major housing developments that could potentially harm water quality due to sewage runoff or lawn chemicals used in yards or on golf courses in forestland watershed areas.

A news release from the group indicated that the measure could affect Mt. Hood Meadows proposal to develop a destination resort at Cooper Spur, but that the measure was not just about Mt. Hood Meadows.  It would give citizens the right to have their voices heard when it comes to major developments with 25 or more residential units in forestland watersheds anywhere in the county.

The news release encourages Individuals who wish to learn more to contact Jurgen Hess 541 386-2668 or hess@gorge.net.

Regular Features

  1. You have already completed the most important part of your homework by staying informed about Cooper Spur.  Thank you for your interest.
  2. Forward this Bulletin and encourage friends and colleagues to subscribe.  See Subscription Information below.
  3. Join us at one or more of the wild and free events described above.  You will meet other conservation-minded people and get the chance to make a positive impact on preserving the wilderness around Cooper Spur on the Northeast side of Mt. Hood..
  4. Join the Portland or Hood River Volunteer Teams. Contact info@cooperspur.org for more information on how you can get involved.
Cooper Spur Index

Percentage of land protected as designated wilderness in Oregon (source ONRC)

3 %

In California 

13 %

In Washington

10 %

Year of first Winter recreation by settlers in the Tilly Jane/Cloud Cap area


Year of last construction work on the Tilly Jane Ski Trail 


Number of logging clearcuts adjacent to the Tilly Jane Ski Trail




For questions, more information, or to volunteer, please contact the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition at info@cooperspur.org.

Subscription Information

The Bulletin of the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition is published periodically by e-mail to registered subscribers.  It may be forwarded in integral form to anyone.  While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information presented here, mistakes are possible.  Please forward requests for corrections or clarifications to bulletin-editor@cooperspur.org.

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