From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 9 - May 30, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

FS hears concerns for Lakeside expansion, Blatt access issue

by Cat Urbigkit

The Bridger-Teton National Forest hosted an open house forum at the Sublette County Library last Wednesday evening. Surprisingly, the proposed food storage order wasn't the major point of discussion or contention - that title would have gone to either the Blatt road controversy or the Lakeside Lodge expansion proposal.

A group of about 15 citizens turned out for the forum, which was designed to give citizens one-on-one access to forest officials to discuss issues of concern, but turned into somewhat of a town-hall-type public discussion.

John Mackey of Pinedale questioned federal officials about what they intend to do to resolve the access issue posed by John Blatt's intention to close the New Fork/Willow Creek Road as it crosses his private property. The road is currently used by the public, with Blatt's permission, to access the Willow Creek Guard Station area.

Mackey pointed out that two of the three Sublette County Commissioners have voiced their general opposition to taking someone's private property.

"I would have to agree with them," Mackey said. "It's a pretty tough deal, taking a guy's property."

Ideas proposed for negotiating limited public access across Blatt's land were discussed, including allowing only seasonal access or fencing the roadway to protect his property.

Pinedale District Ranger Craig Trulock said, "If he has absolutely no interest in allowing public access ... it's probably a moot point."

Trulock said he will "wait and see what happens" with the petition before the county commission seeking to have the road declared a county road, because "it wouldn't make sense trying to run too many options at once."

Trulock expressed hope that Blatt is willing to open up communications with his agency.

As for building a new road into the area, Trulock said, "We would consider that if we'd exhausted all the options."

"We're going to explore every option out there and we're not going to give up on it," Trulock said. Trulock added that he has spoken with Forest Service staffer Cindy Stein "about where else on this district we have access concerns."

Expansion plans for Lakeside Lodge on the shore of Fremont Lake and Half Moon Lake Resort on Half Moon Lake were the subjects of concern at the meeting as well. When it was brought up that former Pinedale District Ranger Bob Reese is now the consultant working for the two resorts in drafting their environmental documents to be submitted to the federal agency, several citizens protested.

Mackey said, "How can he switch sides?"

Steve Mackey questioned how Reese could be unbiased in writing the document. Trulock said Reese doesn't have to be unbiased, but the document has to be written correctly.

Trulock explained that the resort owners are free to hire consultants to write the documents, but "We don't just take something Bob gives us and sign off on it."

Trulock said it's the agency's responsibility to review the document and be sure that all the requirements have been met.

"That's our job," Trulock said. "We have to ensure that's an adequate analysis."

Lakeside owner Greg Ptasnik said Reese was especially suited to write the documents because of his experience with the issues involved and his knowledge of the areas of public concern that need to be addressed.

Sally Mackey told forest officials that while the upgrading existing facilities is "very commendable," expansion is of concern to her because it would be "detrimental to the size of the lake ... and the usage there."

Reese gave an update on the progress of the Lakeside document, pointing out that a scaled-down expansion plan is now being pursued and will be an alternative in the document.

The draft Lakeside Lodge master plan proposed construction of new facilities to be added, including 15 small log duplex cabins; four large log duplex family cabins with kitchens; a motel/lodge with 40 rental rooms; 30 RV sites; marina with 39 slips in an expanded sheltered mooring, 10 buoy moorings, boat launch and refueling services; lodge/restaurant expansion; enlarged entranceway and signage; three small cabins for employee housing; new or expanded support facilities; a lakefront recreation area and multi-purpose pavilion; improved and expanded parking areas; and a 10-acre undeveloped area between the existing cabins and the paved road, to be used for parking and some support facilities.

Some existing facilities would be retained, while others would be removed, and the expansion process would proceed in phases, taking up to10 years. This original proposal will be one alternative in the environmental document, while the scaled-back proposal will serve as a second alternative. A "no action" alternative will be included for consideration as well.

The draft Lakeside document will be submitted to the federal agency within about 30 days, Reese said, and will probably be out for public review sometime this summer.

As for the Half Moon document, it is also about ready to go to the Forest Service, Reese said. Sally Mackey said owners of the resort are "doing a fine job" in upgrading the facilities, but said the expansion proposal "is just overwhelming."

Doris Burzlander added: "I feel that too, on both of them. The size of the expansion is just overwhelming."

The draft Half Moon Lake Resort master plans called for expansion of the resort's special-use area from its current eight acres to encompass 42 acres. The existing lodge would be expanded by 1,400 square feet, allowing the removal of a temporary kitchen facility currently on-site. The parking area at the lodge would be expanded and improved as well.

The marina would have eight boat slips added to the existing 21 slips, and a 120-foot natural rock breakwater would be added near the lodge. Two additional guest cabins would be added, as well as additional employee housing. A new bunkhouse would be added, and the existing barn would be expanded.

A 3,500-square-foot shop building and staging area would be constructed near the resort's entrance, with three or four recreational vehicle sites, fully equipped with power and sewage hookups. Additional parking for horse trailers and boat trailers would be available near the shop building. The plan includes numerous infrastructure improvements including water well, leach field, utility, restroom and power installations.

At last week's meeting, Dr. J. Thomas Johnston, representing the Sublette County Health Department, chastised forest officials for their failure to respond to concerns raised by his department about sewage disposal at Fremont Lake.

"Why is the county health department being left out of the loop?" Johnston questioned. Stein responded, "That's a problem we need to correct."

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