“It has been … a hot topic”
Even with a letter of support for Snodgrass already in the hands of Gunnison National Forest supervisor Charlie Richmond, Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director Christi Matthews thought it would be a good idea to let Mt. Crested Butte officials know who’s backing them.
On Tuesday, May 6, Matthews presented the results of a Chamber of Commerce survey regarding the development of Snodgrass Mountain as a ski area during a regular meeting of the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council.
Matthews said although the town had already signed a letter in support of Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) and the Forest Service entering the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for Snodgrass, she wanted to give the Town Council a briefing on how the Chamber has been involved.
“It is something that has been a hot topic for us to get engaged in,” Matthews said. “The Chamber has not taken a position, ourselves as an organization, but we do feel it is important for our businesses to be represented,” Matthews said.
Plans to expand the ski area onto the 11,145-foot-high Snodgrass Mountain, adjacent to Mt. Crested Butte, have come and gone for more than two decades.
Plans for Snodgrass resurfaced in 2005 when CBMR submitted a preliminary proposal to the Forest Service for consideration before it officially entered the NEPA process, which would determine impacts of the development. The Forest Service and CBMR agreed to explore potential “deal breakers” before the federal agency accepts the resort’s official application.
According to Matthews, the April 26 survey was sent to 312 businesses in the East River Valley, of which 135 responded. Of the respondents, 85 businesses were located within the town of Crested Butte, and 19 were located in Mt. Crested Butte.
Of the total survey group, 56 percent of the businesses were in support of the Snodgrass expansion, 30 percent were opposed, and the remainder were either unsure or did not have enough information. For just Mt. Crested Butte businesses, approximately 74 percent were in favor of the expansion, 10 percent were opposed, and 16 percent were unsure or did not have enough information.
“Definitely the overwhelming percent of the respondents are at least in favor of moving into the NEPA process,” Matthews said of Mt. Crested Butte.
Between each separate geographical area, Matthews said only the majority of business members in Crested Butte South were opposed to the development of Snodgrass.
Matthews said many businesses have been fearful of pro- or anti-Snodgrass retribution to their stores and therefore expressed appreciation for the Chamber’s anonymous survey. According to the survey results, 27 percent of businesses indicated their concerns about sharing their position on Snodgrass for fear of impacts to their business.
The survey was only for Chamber of Commerce members, and Matthews said some non-member businesses asked to participate. She said the Chamber listened to get an idea of how other businesses in the community were feeling, but did not include their responses in the survey.
Mt. Crested Butte Town Council member Wendy Fisher asked what percentage of businesses in Crested Butte were Chamber members.
Matthews said it was a good representation of the business community. She noted the Chamber of Commerce now has 350 members, up from 290 one year ago.
After the presentation, Mt. Crested Butte mayor William Buck said the town has received many letters from community members in support of Snodgrass. Buck said, “We are getting a constant stream of letters in regards to Snodgrass. The levels in favor exceed those of the (Chamber) survey, so it seems we are heading in the right direction.”
On Tuesday, April 15 the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council approved a letter to Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest supervisor Charlie Richmond in support of the Forest Service and CBMR entering the NEPA process. Following last Tuesday’s meeting, council member David Clayton said, “We do have a longstanding history of supporting Snodgrass.”
Clayton continued, “Basically the letter we wrote was to enter the NEPA process so the Forest Service and everybody else can actually see a plan and we will all know what we’re looking at, and the process can then be done in the open.”