WENATCHEE — It was a packed house Tuesday night for a hearing on a plan trying to balance the interests of cross-country skiers and snowmobilers in the Squilchuck and Stemilt basins.
The plan was developed by the Chelan County Natural Resource Department with input from state agencies, said Erin McKay, county natural resource specialist. It outlines a management strategy for recreational uses in the area, as well as future goals for development for things such as parking areas, campgrounds and shooting ranges.
The Chelan County Commission will consider adopting the plan from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, at the Confluence Technology Center.
Almost 50 people attended the Tuesday hearing and at least eight out of the 11 people who spoke expressed concern about limitations the plan would place on snowmobilers.
“I’ve been using the area we’re talking about since I was almost 5 years old,” said Delbert Hankins, of Wenatchee. “And I’ve put a foot on almost every inch of that ground. To have somebody tell me that I have to give it up because they want to use it and I can’t use it anymore is ludicrous to me.”
The Stemilt-Squilchuck Recreation Plan covers 17,000 acres, according to county documents. The land is owned by multiple agencies including Chelan County, the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife, as well as the U.S. Forest Service.
The current plan is a compromise agreement between motorized and non-motorized users and would reserve 3,026 acres for non-motorized use, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, McKay said. The non-motorized use area would include land around Lake Clara, over to the Stemilt-Squilchuck State Park and down to Upper Wheeler Reservoir.
It is this part of the plan that has received the most comments from the public, McKay said. Both motorized and non-motorized users are unhappy with the compromise.
The El Sendero Backcountry Ski and Snowshoe Club wanted 4,535 acres for non-motorized use and quit participating in the plan development over the compromise, she said. The motorized users originally offered only 1,882 acres.
One of the areas that snowmobilers are concerned they will lose access to is a series of bowls and open terrain east of Mission Ridge, she said.
Tom Hendrickson, of Cashmere, said he started participating in the development of the plan because he didn’t feel the snowmobilers were being adequately represented.
The land should remain open for all users, Hendrickson said. Snowmobilers have never asked that non-motorized users be denied access.
“Why do we need to mandate that someone can’t use part of that land?” Hendrickson asked.
Matthew Crane, of Wenatchee, said he and his wife live near the recreation area and like to snowshoe and hike there. He and his wife appreciate solitude in the wilderness and he thinks the compromise plan is a good idea.
“One of the things that is really important to us is the quietude,” Crane said. “It seems to me that setting aside a non-motorized area is very much of what I value and what I appreciate and what my wife and I love about Wenatchee.”
Tony Buhr: 664-7123
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