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The Teanaway a paradise lost?

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Jun 05, 2006 05:00 PM |

esmeralda basin trailheadThose of us on the wet side of the Cascades often look to the drier Teanaway region north of Cle Elum as a hiker's paradise. Last weekend, my family spent a lovely weekend renting an old Forest Service cabin on the North Fork Teanaway, and hiking up a little way toward Esmeralda Basin. There's a fair amount of snow on the trail, but in several weeks the wildflower display will launch.

A few weekends ago, a co-worker of mine headed up to Hex and Sasse Mountains, also in the Teanaway, to do some dry-side hiking. But what she found was disturbing: Forest Service Road 116 to the Hex Mountain trailhead no longer exists. The road, she discovered, has given way to development. The checkerboard lands between Forest Service holdings are being sold off to developers. Private cabins and mountain homes are popping up like glacier lilies in the spring.

Pressure to develop places like the Teanaway is increasing. The brand new 6,300-acre Suncadia resort is bringing 3,785 homes to Roslyn, formerly a town of just 1,000. Development continues to gobble land in the foothills of Cle Elum, Wenatchee and Chelan. And that means loss of precious habitat and recreation land. While forestry was once the biggest threat to these checkerboard lands, rampant development is the new clearcut.

It's not all bad news. RIDGE, a Roslyn-based organization, helped protect a 300-acre forest on Cle Elum Ridge. The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust is working to preserve lands near Wenatchee and Chelan.

But there's one huge threat on the horizon that hikers should be aware of. Initiative 933, which is slithering its way toward the ballot this November, could prove disastrous for places like the Teanaway. The measure would require state and local governments to either pay property owners if land protections affect their property values, or waive the protections. It would essentially void growth-management protections and allow developers to go on a building spree in places like Roslyn and the Teanaway.

So much for paradise.

To learn more about opposition to Initiative 933, visit the Community Protection Coalition here.

Photo of Esmeralda Basin trailhead by Andrew Engelson.