Hood River Mountain Trophy Homes

These fragile slopes on Hood River Mountain -- covered in their spring blanket of yellow balsamroot -- were recently scarred with a driveway to yet another ill-conceived trophy home.

These fragile slopes on Hood River Mountain -- covered in their spring blanket of yellow balsamroot -- were recently scarred with a driveway to yet another ill-conceived trophy home.

One of the great tragedies of the Columbia River National Scenic Area Act (signed into law on November 17, 1986) was the crude delineation of what should be protected and what should not. The official boundary was eventually determined by pulling in terrain that could be viewed from the river, and from a scenic resources perspective, this was a fair starting point.

But the flaw in this thinking is that nature rarely follows clear boundaries, and some of the most precious lands in the Gorge were excluded by virtue of being hidden from view. It’s times to correct that oversight. It was also automobile-centric, since gorge visitors on foot, bicycle or horseback are likely to visit the high points and overlooks that have a broader viewshed.

This map shows how the scenic area boundary excluded the unique, open slopes of Hood River Mountain shown in the previous photo.

This map shows how the scenic area boundary excluded the unique, open slopes of Hood River Mountain shown in the previous photo.

One such area is Hood River Mountain. Hikers flock to the area, though few realize that they’re hiking on private land (despite a sign stating so). Still fewer know that the land they are hiking on has no protection from the Columbia River National Scenic Area, though the Columbia River can be seen below. Without Oregon’s strict statewide planning, this area would be maze of roads and trophy homes by now. Instead, the mountain survives largely intact, in big parcels owned by a Washington timber company.

But not all of Hood River Mountain was spared. The northern extent had already been divided into smaller parcels by the time Oregon’s planning laws were enacted in the 1970s, and today these parcels are in high demand for trophy homes. The dwelling pictured at the top of this article was recently constructed on one such parcel, scarring the mountain forever with a quarter-mile driveway. This gouge across the delicate sloped meadows of arrowleaf balsamroot threatens to destabilize sensitive soils, placing an important ecosystem at risk.

The sprawling meadows on Hood River Mountain are owned by a (so far) benevolent timber company, but are on the wrong side of the scenic area boundary for the purpose of public protection.

The sprawling meadows on Hood River Mountain are owned by a (so far) benevolent timber company, but are on the wrong side of the scenic area boundary for the purpose of public protection.

This development on the northern tier of Hood River Mountain is a jarring reminder that in the short term, the scenic area boundary must be revisited to identify rare or endangered ecosystems, or other important resources that abut the line. Adjusting the boundary in these areas would open the door to federal protections and public acquisition of these sites over time.

In the long-term, the more difficult question of acquiring and either removing, or re-purposing some of the more egregious trophy homes must be addressed. The Forest Service has rarely crossed this line, largely due to lack of adequate funding for acquisition to begin with. Someday, this will be an important part of the restoration vision of the Mount Hood National Park Campaign. But for now, simply stopping the bleeding is a more pragmatic goal. The Forest Service must receive more funding to accelerate private acquisitions.

Trophy home gate on Hood River Mountain, where high anxiety accompanies country living for these dream-home dwellers.

Trophy home gate on Hood River Mountain, where high anxiety accompanies country living for these dream-home dwellers.

The State of Oregon and local governments can also help on this front. The state and local jurisdictions could offer a tax incentive for trophy-home owners in high-profile locations to eventually deed these homes to the public for demolition, removal or reuse as a public facility.

In the meantime, the counties that issue permits for rural trophy homes can raise the bar for what they are willing to accept in engineering as geotechnical justifications for these projects. The Forest Service could assist the counties in providing an enhanced permit process, as a strategy for preventing the least sustainable eyesores from slipping through.

Non-profit land advocates are already important partners in addressing both the short and long-term problem. Today, at least three of these organizations have begun to acquire private lands in the Gorge, and are advocating for expanding the scenic area boundaries to encompass more endangered lands. Since the non-profits are not bound by official designations, and could begin working immediately with landowners to acquire land at overlooked places like Hood River Mountain, they offer the potential to work far in advance of the federal bureaucracy.

Each of us can help by supporting the non-profits who do this work. Most prominent are the Trust for Public Lands, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and the Nature Conservancy. You can find contact information for all three in this directory of organizations. Consider joining or simply contributing to one of these groups, and helping protect some of our most unique landscapes so that they may someday be intact or rehabilitated — as part of the Mount Hood National Park vision.

Explore posts in the same categories: Proposals

Tags: , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

4 Comments on “Hood River Mountain Trophy Homes”


  1. [...] This is one piece of land that will hopefully come into public ownership someday, before a less responsible private owner places trophy homes on these beautiful slopes. I wrote about this unfortunate oversight in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Act in this article from a few years ago. [...]

  2. Dino Says:

    Hello, just wanted to mention, I liked this article.
    It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  3. Tom Kloster Says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Dino!

    Tom


  4. Flowers have been linked with love and romance from time immemorial.
    Life presents us with moments to cheer and celebrate. Crazy – Florist is a growing company that has been
    reached to every Indian Doorstep and offers you a same day
    delivery of your gift or flowers to your loved ones in Chennai so
    send flowers Chennai online.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers

%d bloggers like this: