Kapka Sno-park attracting appeals

Critics assail plan on several fronts

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

The Deschutes National Forest plan to build a new sno-park along Cascade Lakes Highway faces objections from backcountry skiers and snowmobile riders alike.

“We've gotten appeals from all sides of the spectrum,” said Kevin Larkin, district ranger for the Bend-Fort Rock District of the forest.

The Kapka Butte Sno-park, planned for where state Highway 45 from Sunriver meets Cascade Lakes Highway, would feature 70 parking spots big enough for vehicles towing trailers. Along with the parking lots, the sno-park would have two bathrooms.

By building Kapka Sno-park, the U.S. Forest Service intends to stop crowding up the road at Dutchman Flat Sno-park, said Amy Tinderholdt, recreation team leader for the Bend-Fort Rock District.

“We feel that Kapka (Butte) Sno-park would alleviate some of the parking congestion we have at Dutchman,” she said.

There are 26 parking spots at Dutchman, most for passenger vehicles. The forest released its final plans for the project in September and took appeals until early last month.

But appeals filed by skiers and snowmobile riders call for the agency to focus on redesigning Dutchman Flat rather than building the new sno-park.

The appeals are pending at the U.S. Forest Service regional office, which will decide whether the forest should revise the plan or go ahead with the project. A $461,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration is set to cover the cost of building the sno-park.

Kapka Butte Sno-park would be located at 5,800 feet, around 500 feet below Dutchman and 500 feet above Virginia Meissner Sno-park.

The difference in elevation is the reason the Forest Service should improve Dutchman rather than build Kapka Butte, said Erik Johnson, a lead volunteer for the Bend Backcountry Alliance. The group advocates for human-powered winter recreation, skiing and snowshoeing, and has about 800 members.

He said on weekends with good snow the Dutchman parking lot will be full around 8 a.m.

Adding the new sno-park won't solve the problem at Dutchman, he said. The group appealed the plan.

“Everybody wants more parking at that high elevation,” Johnson said.

A snowmobile rider and member of the Moon Country Sno-mobile Club, Pieter Van Gelderen of Bend, agrees with Johnson. He also filed an appeal and said Dutchman has snow into June and July while the other, lower snow parks lose their snow.

He called for an expansion of Dutchman.

“It's the one place everyone uses,” he said.

Johnson and Van Gelderen both also said the design of Kapka Butte would create conflicts between skiers and snowmobiles. Van Gelderen points to an existing highway underpass now used by snowmobile riders that would be used by Nordic skiers and snowmobile riders under the plan.

“My way of thinking is they ought to go back to the drawing board and can this,” Van Gelderen said. “... No one is really super happy with it.”

The design would add more people to the area while not adding enough separation between the different recreation groups, Johnson said.

Larkin, the district ranger, said he still supports the plan. He said the appeals address issues bigger than the parking situation the agency intends to remedy by building Kapka Sno-park.

“We can't solve all the problems we see in demand with one project,” he said.