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  • Mt. Ashland Association gets ski permit

    Holding the permit could help the association raise more funds, some ski area officials say
  • Mt. Ashland Association officials announced Thursday the U.S. Forest Service granted the nonprofit group the permit to the ski area.
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  • Mt. Ashland Association officials announced Thursday the U.S. Forest Service granted the nonprofit group the permit to the ski area.
    "We're glad it's done and we're happy that it worked out," said Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark.
    The permit had been held by the city of Ashland, but the City Council voted in October 2011 to give up the permit in return for getting some control over ski area operations and the proposed expansion.
    The Mt. Ashland Association then had to apply to the Forest Service to become the new permit holder.
    Clark said the association is looking forward to working with the city and Forest Service for the benefit of future generations of local winter sports enthusiasts.
    He described relations with city officials as good these days.
    Many residents who are opposed to the ski area expansion argued the city should not give up the permit, saying it was the only way to exercise any control over the ski area.
    Although the city had held the permit and leased the ski area to the Mt. Ashland Association, the lease agreement barred the city from interfering with operations.
    Highlighting that lack of control, the city had to pay about $400,000 in settlement costs and legal fees after a judge ruled it had violated lease terms by improperly trying to interfere with expansion plans in 2006.
    In exchange for the city giving up the permit, the Mt. Ashland Association agreed to a number of conditions, including that it have money and binding financial commitments in hand before beginning any expansion work.
    Both sides agreed that the city can have an inspector on site to monitor the expansion if it moves forward. The city also now has a liaison to the Mt. Ashland's board of directors, Councilor Dennis Slattery.
    "The agreement is actually a better agreement from the city's point of view," Mayor John Stromberg said Thursday, comparing it to the old lease terms that largely bound the city's hands.
    The expansion is on hold as a judge considers whether to lift an injunction that has blocked it since 2007.
    Adding to the complexity of the case, the Rogue Group Sierra Club has raised new concerns about potential environmental impacts of the expansion. It also has questioned the expansion's financial viability in today's uncertain economic times.
    The Sierra Club raised those concerns in a supplemental filing when it recently asked a judge to keep the injunction in place.
    Clark said Thursday he has no predictions for when a ruling could be issued in the case.
    The Mt. Ashland Association plans to fund the expansion through donations. Clark said the association will start the public phase of its fundraising campaign if the injunction is lifted.
    The permit could be an asset to the Mt. Ashland Association in its fundraising efforts. Some association officials have said there are potential donors who were reluctant to give while the city held the permit.
    The first and most significant phase of the expansion would cost an estimated $2.5 million to $3.5 million. It includes ski runs, a chairlift, parking spaces and environmental projects.
    Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.
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