Life does present choices but so often a choice is between paths that each carry ramifications. In years past, we often discussed conflicts of the natural world with Ken White. He always said, “That is what is called a dilemma.”
So the first time we had a resident cougar several years ago, we called the Department of Fish and Wildlife after our horse and three mules were slashed on successive nights. I kept hoping he would move on. That entire summer he regularly crossed our deck, pooped in the yard and trotted around the neighborhood midday. Our field was littered with 30 fuzzy tails and bare spines from the neighboring feral cat colony. Wildlife officers tried to help by placing their giant “Havaheart” type trap next to his seven artfully buried kills. We caught two bears and one dog. In the late fall, the cougar moved a few feet from the door of a 4-year-old child so WDFW shot it.
Since then we have learned from WDFW staff and read The Beast in the Garden but it does not make our choices easier. A key factor is to determine whether an animal has moved from wild prey to domestic stock. Some animals never do, even when they live close to people and their animals.
This winter’s cougar No. 5 passed through our place about once a week. The mules and donkeys always tell me when a cougar visits. I didn’t call as I again hoped he was just circling through. He was not there every day, so I had hope. But the call was eventually made when he popped out under the feet of our neighbors as they walked over our bridge. He had a cozy spot 50 feet from the back door of our house. Again, WDFW worked hard to not kill him. Our people respect the animals they manage and control. They give them names. This cougar was on record as not being a problem. Didn’t he know not to take refuge at the school? He made it easy for a lawful hunter and maybe appropriate, I am sorry to say.
We too like things on the wild side.
Jane Gilbertsen and Stephen Nourse, Winthrop
Commissioners: look at yourselves
Headlines aren’t the story, but are important of course. It was surprising to read your choice of headline about the county commissioners’ decision to decrease environmental review protection of new and larger building projects in the Methow Valley as well as across Okanogan County (Jan. 29). The headline read, “Commissioners exempt smaller projects from environmental review across the county.”
Smaller? The commissioners’ decision changes the current and longtime standard to trigger environmental review under the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) so that much larger development projects are allowed without review. A couple of months ago this was a quiet, county-level decision without public input, but as more and more Methow residents found out about the proposal, more and more public comment was submitted to the county. Thanks to articles in the Methow Valley News and to other sources as well for bringing the proposed changes to public attention.
Despite high volume and overwhelming public input to maintain long-term, effective and strongly supported Methow Valley standards, the commissioners decided to decrease environmental review protection and raise the threshold to allow larger new development.
One of many examples for raising the threshold for environmental review is the changed increase from the current four-home development to 20-home development. Egads! What would most Methow residents think about a new 20-home development being built on their neighboring parcel?
The explanation from all three commissioners is that there are many other regulations to do the same job. However, the other regulations are not completely overlapping, and several of those other regulations are currently under revision themselves, so that the baseline standards for land-use protection are not at all certain.
Perhaps the commissioners should step back and take a look at themselves, at public process, and at their public responsibility.
Susan Crampton, Winthrop/Twisp
Support the dream
The first annual Pro Edge Winter Classic Hockey Tournament brought 85 players and their families to our community Jan. 24-26. It was a raging success, selling out in 38 minutes. Hats off to everyone involved in sharing our unique outdoor rink, our beautiful valley, and creating lifetime memories.
As I sold concessions and raised awareness of our “Guaranteed ice — wouldn’t it be nice?” fundraiser, I was bathed in positive remarks from first-time visitors to the valley. “This is the best hockey tournament we have ever participated in!” “Wow! What an incredible facility and location.” “It’s soooo awesome to skate outside.” These comments flowed freely from parents of the three Canadian and two Seattle-area teams. What? The Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink (WISR) impressed those hockey-loving Canadians? Sweet!
Our first tournament taught the nonprofit WISR about the commercial impact of such an event: 395 visitors came to the valley for three days of fun. They booked 86 hotel rooms and spent an estimated $24,500 on ice time, rooms, dining, groceries and retail sales. All this, and locals and visitors still had the opportunity for open skate and hockey.
But we got lucky: the weather was perfect. The ice rink is presently weather-dependent. Had the tournament been a week later, warm temperatures and melting ice would have meant a cancellation, loss of opportunity and revenue. Refrigerated ice would guarantee that the rink would be open from mid-November to mid-March. Four to six hockey tournaments per year during the shoulder snow season would be a boon to our local economy and help sustain the rink.
Please consider a contribution to help match the Washington State Recreation Conservation Office’s $500,000 in funds for the refrigeration and rink expansion project, described online at www.winthropicerink.com. Better yet, drop by the rink, give it a spin or shoot a puck and become a part of the dream.
Jill Calvert, WISR board president
Threat to night skies
I am a serious fan of the Methow Valley — a part time resident and full-time booster. Clearly this is a place with many features — both natural and social — that make it unique among communities. Valley residents are protective of those features, and rightly so. That is why I was so shocked leaving our friends’ house near Wolf Creek after dinner the other night. Standing on their porch I saw a large swath of low clouds lit to a white glare by artificial light. I quickly understood that it had to be coming from the nighttime illumination of the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink.
The rink is an important amenity, and the possibilities for recreation, education and entertainment it offers are of great value to the community. But allowing it to endanger one of the valley’s most unique and treasured features — the night sky — is shortsighted, and affects the look and feel of the area for miles around. It also gives the “inch” that will become the “mile.” If this is permitted in only a few individual spots across the valley, the dark night sky that we all enjoy will be impossible to get back.
I understand that the rink wants to extend its season of use with a refrigerated surface. This will be great in the daytime, but it will have an even greater impact on our winter nights. It is surprising to me that the side effects of nighttime use of the rink were not better mitigated. The technology must exist to illuminate the rink with less impact on the surrounding properties, even while lighting a bright white ice rink. I hope that the town comes to realize, and remedy, the tradeoff that has been made.
Alissa Rupp, Twisp and Seattle
This is a belated letter of disappointment that Patrick McGann will no longer be writing his monthly column for the Methow Valley News. I enjoyed his opinions, humor and wisdom quite a lot. I’ll really miss the column. Good luck, Patrick, in your new gig and digs.
Wayne Mendro, Twisp
Where were you?
Re: Poor attendance at free cooking demonstration and meal. Sara Knapp graciously gave of her time to teach a short cooking class at The Cove food bank in Twisp. The past two Thursdays during Cove hours, people were given the opportunity to sign up for the class. The Cove was prepared with tablecloths and enough food to feed 25 people and about that many had signed up. Only five people showed up. For those of you who neglected to show up, you would have been better served if you had attended.
I hope that there is better attendance at Sara’s next cooking class, if she offers another one. She is also a health coach and has a lot to offer the community.
Brad Campbell, Twisp
The latest recreation district proposal to tax those of us, as Methow Valley property owners, who live and are registered to vote outside of the Methow Valley, is terribly unfair. It’s also unfair to the folks living in the Methow Valley because they can be assessed additional property tax without a vote. All of this is according to the law regulating the formation and conduct of the Methow Valley Recreation District, RCW 35.61.
Now imagine the anguish of those property owners who can’t vote in the first place because although they own property within School District 350, they are registered somewhere else. Imagine paying a tax on something you will never use, never have any benefit derived from, but are required to pay for. This is simply not fair. It is a classic taxation without representation.
In all probability the Methow Valley Recreation District will become very expensive. The district will have the ability to levy 75 cents on each $1,000 of assessed valuation without a vote. Since my wife and I own property in the Methow Valley, but live and vote in Skagit County, we have no say in the origination or the tax consequences of this recreation district. Although we have no say in the formation of the Methow Valley Recreation District, we have an interest in it, as we will pay for it. That’s not fair.
Rick Grimstead, former Skagit County sheriff, Bow, Wash.