September 24, 2018
Senior National Advisor to the Secretary for Recreation
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington DC, 20240
PO BOX 1
Stehekin, WA 98852
Re: Stehekin Heritage comments to Secretarial Order 3366-Increasing Recreational Opportunities on Lands and Waters Managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior
Dear Mr. May:
Stehekin Heritage thanks you for considering our support and input regarding Secretarial Order 3366 (SO 3366) that seeks to “ensure public lands and waters under the management and administration of the U.S. Department of the Interior are open and accessible for recreational pursuits by all Americans and visitors to the United States.”
SO 3366 pertains specifically to the recreational issues the private residents of the Stehekin Valley depend upon for their livelihoods.
Please find our comments in the following that address the directive in the areas of :
- Recreational access
- Rural Recreation
- Rural communities role in providing visitor services and the revitalization of rural economies
Stehekin Heritage is interested in working towards expansion of recreation in our area, and can provide extensive background material in support of this endeavor.
Thank you for your attention!
Ron Scutt, President
*Stehekin Heritage is a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating and protecting a viable community presence in the Stehekin Valley, as well as, sharing and enhancing public recreation throughout the North Cascades.
Stehekin is located in the North Cascades Mountains, at the head of 55 mile-long Lake Chelan in Washington State. Access to Stehekin is by lake travel, trail, or emergency airstrip. Stehekin population of private residents numbers 90 on average. Many residents are from original homesteading families.
For over 100 years, residents have served travelers entering, exiting, and staying to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the North Cascades. Stehekin tradition has from its very beginning served miners, hunters, explorers, fishermen, photographers, hikers, mountaineers, travelers from near and far as well as being a respite from civilization for relaxation and refreshment. Stehekin remains isolated and quiet compared to the rest of the world, making it an appealing retreat.
The original number of 1700 acres created by homesteaders has been reduced to less than 400 by federal acquisition. Much of the community that remains depends on recreation for their livelihood.
The Stehekin community is now surrounded by federal lands, making it a gateway community within the Lake Chelan Recreational Area.
Legislation created the North Cascades National Park in 1968. A portion was left to accommodate recreational opportunities and the community of Stehekin:
By creating Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, 1700 private landholdings were preserved specifically to:
“Designate the lower Stehekin Valley and upper Lake Chelan areas the Lake Chelan National Recreation area instead of a part of the park. Many of the yearlong residents of the Stehekin Valley are descendants of the original homesteaders. Some 1700 acres, mostly on the valley floor are in private ownership, and in the past several decades a number of summer homes have been built … The lake … will serve as the primary access for park and recreation visitors approaching from the southeast. The village and the lower valley, therefore, will have considerable use, and development to accommodate these visitors will be necessary. … All of these factors were important in the committee’s decision to create a 62,000 acre recreation area here, instead of giving the area national park status.” (Senate Report 700, pg. 30, 31)
SO3366 addresses Recreational Access.
Stehekin Heritage recommends:
Restoration of the Stehekin Historic Road
The original historic road provided public access to the mountains starting from the community of Stehekin, at the head of Lake Chelan and 23 miles later ending at Cottonwood Camp. The road is a primitive, gravel and dirt road, that follows the Stehekin river into the higher elevations and connects to several major North Cascades routes and recreational opportunities including:
Cascade Pass Trail(a historical Indian route to the west side of Washington state)
Horseshoe Basin (a spectacular day hike into a cirque of many waterfalls and a historic mine)
Trapper Lake (a ½ mile bushwhack hike from Cottonwood into a turquoise blue high mountain fishing lake )
Park Creek Pass Trail (connecting to the north and two large glacial lakes, now along Highway 20
Flat Creek trail (a day hike into old growth forest and a good fishing)
Bridge Creek Trail and Campground (a route to highway 20, 12 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, a popular route for hiking into Stehekin)
Stehekin Road (a beautiful day trip along the river for family picnics, camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, bicycling)
Mountain Climbing (several major climbs are routed from the Stehekin Road)
The primitive Stehekin road made possible these recreational opportunities to reach the high country and all points along the way, relatively easily by way of car, bus, bicycle, horse or foot travel. It also made available opportunities to the elderly, the disabled and working folks that did not have time for long trips.
The Upper Valley Stehekin Road was damaged by a flood in 2003 and the National Park Service has refused to repair and re-open it, citing cost as the major inhibitor. Access is now an additional 9 mile hike to Cottonwood, and day hikes are now limited to only the very fit.
Stehekin Heritage has actively supported re-opening this access since 2003 and successfully put through Congress H.R. 280 which would have allowed the route to be moved away from the river onto a historic detour/wagon road. Washington Senator Parlette Support of Re-opening Upper Valley Stehekin Road
A local resident engineer also has taken his time to draft an excellent proposal to rebuild the road in its original place along the river. This could be done at a drastically reduced cost compared to the National Park Service estimate that is in the millions of dollars.
The NPS has used lack of funding as a reason for not taking action to restore the road as well as citing many layers of future possible damage. However, with proper authorization this modest road access could be restored, even with private money, and repaired as events occur, as it once was, routinely for over 100 years.
The Historic Stehekin Road is a viable, valuable access route for the visiting public to enjoy more recreation after reaching the LCNRA. The Stehekin Valley private businesses are integral in providing lodging, food and supplies for trips further into the North Cascades at the beginning of this route and refreshment upon return.
Restoration and re-opening of the historic upper Valley Stehekin Road is an obligation, not a choice, as is outlined in founding legislation. Stehekin Heritage strongly supports re-opening access to recreation in the North Cascades.
SO3366 addresses Rural Recreation
Stehekin Heritage recommends:
Support of Stehekin Community in LCNRA
Stehekin provides many outdoor experiences for the visitor of all ages. Included below is a sampling of the kinds of recreation provided, locally. Stehekin private residents provide 85% of recreational services offered in the Stehekin Valley.
Cascade Outfitters (1 company, average 6 trips a year, summer season)
Stehekin Discovery Bikes ( Mountain Bike rentals, summer season)
Stehekin Fishing Adventures (1 guide, summer season)
Day Rides (1 outfitter, 2 rides a day offered, summer season)
Kayak rentals (1 outfitter, summer season)
Private Rental Cabins (Seven providers at this time)
Stehekin Pastry Company (1 owner, summer season)
Stehekin Valley Ranch (modest cabins, food, activity base-horseback riding, river fishing, etc summer season)
Stehekin Reservations (a booking company, year round)
ATV Rentals (1 owner summer season)
Electric Boat Rentals (1 owner, summer season)
Most current businesses are connected to early homesteading families, or have strong ties to Stehekin and operate as a means of livelihood for people who wish to continue to live here. These recreational opportunities provided by private individuals are without cost to the taxpayer. However, the future of recreation services in the Stehekin Valley are diminishing. Opportunities have been steadily undermined and are now operating with minimal expansion, putting the Stehekin community’s viability at risk.
Stehekin Heritage strongly supports recreational opportunity in the Stehekin Valley as both a way to provide the visitor with quality, authentic services from residents, as well as a way to make a living for residential families.
SO3366 addresses Rural Communities and their role in providing visitor services and the revitalization of rural economies
Stehekin Heritage recommends:
Support of Private Lands within the LCNRA
The Stehekin Community needs support and restoration for a viable future. Current management of the LCNRA is reducing recreational opportunities, and limiting businesses. Stehekin has over 100 years of history serving the visitor. This will not continue as long as there is no limit upon NPS land acquisition in the LCNRA.
The major undermining is taking pace with the purchase of private land in the LCNRA. The intent of congress was to buy minimal amounts of land in 1968 but since then it has reduced the acreage from 1700 to less than 400.
The National Park Service purchased three immediate entry lodges at the Port of Stehekin. Most properties in the Stehekin Landing Area were purchased. Several former homes throughout the valley now serve as NPS housing. The Stehekin Road was taken over from Chelan County. Trails are now maintained by a NPS trail crew. NPS busses transport visitors along the road. Before the NPS arrived, all businesses were run by private ownership, or contracted out by the County.
In a 1981 GAO report, these issues are identified in detail, and even with the title of “Lands in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area Should Be Returned to Private Ownership,” the NPS continues to purchase private lands from willing sellers. A willing seller is often motivated by top dollar prices for their property, and watching a community disappear.
With this limited land base, our community and any future families or individuals, are constricted without a place of operation. The Stehekin Valley most certainly has potential for future accommodations such as small rental cabins, small health related spas, winter businesses and recreation, transportation to and from Stehekin, outfitters of recreation in the NPS, and unforeseen creative businesses that will enhance the area as well as provide a quality experience for all visitors. The continual purchase of property in this landlocked community reduces recreation, and ultimately will in a cavalcade of closures, turn it into a wilderness area. Indeed, we need restoration.
Stehekin Heritage strongly suggests that Land and Water Conservation Fund associated with this directive be restricted from being used to purchase private property in Stehekin.
Any further acquisition at this point is in direct conflict with the expansion of recreation in our gateway community, and our tradition of serving the visitor.
Stehekin Heritage requests your attention to this survival issue for our future, and consideration of the end of land acquisition in the LCNRA.
Thank you, again for considering the Stehekin Valley’s positive contribution to present and future recreational experiences. Stehekin Heritage views SO 3366 as a step forward in understanding remote rural settings such as ours, quality and beneficial recreational services to the visitor, and helping people secure a living and a future in areas that need recreational services. Although our setting is unique, and relatively small as compared to other areas in the nation, we share the same challenges of surrounding limiting regulations and a diminishing community as in other scenic and beautiful destinations. We appreciate the attention being given to these issues in SO 3366.
Stehekin Heritage is more than willing to meet and work with those who share these goals. We do hope you will consider and include our comments as you consider avenues and ways to expand recreation in our country.
(See stehekinheritage.com for more information about issues addressed in this letter, as well as Stehekin history, business listings, accommodations, conflicts and resources including legislative history)
PO Box 1
Stehekin, WA 98852