Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Frustrated by the closure of the Idaho City Park and Ski yurts? So are we! Here's how to help

The Lanza family serves breakfast inside the Skyline Yurt 
Quinn Stuebner plays in the snow by Skyline Yurt. 
Hi all,

I'm sure a lot of cross-country skiers, backcountry skiers and snowshoers are just as upset as I am about the temporary closure of the Idaho City Park and Ski yurt system.

Last fall, when someone in the Boise National Forest discovered that there wasn't a special use permit on file for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to operate six yurts in the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, the yurt system was shut down, and IDPR had to refund $26,155 in rental revenue to hundreds of unhappy customers.

The agencies have had several months to get the permitting and liability insurance issues worked out, but they haven't reached agreement. I've been talking with my friend Mike Lanza, Northwest editor of Backpacker magazine, about this, as well as a number of other folks, and we feel it's time to apply a little political pressure to get this situation fixed.

So we crafted a letter that we're sending to the decision-makers tonight, and we're going to launch a social media campaign tonight and earned media campaign tomorrow in hopes of elevating the priority for resolving this issue. We'd like to see the yurt system opened by New Year's Day.

How can you help? Write or call the following point people on this issue:
Here's the text of our letter and some background:

Dear Ms. Seesholtz, Ms. Faurot, Ms. Merrill and Mr. Strack,
As recreationists who frequently use the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas and the wonderful companion system of six yurts contained therein, we are disappointed that the Boise National Forest and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation have yet to reach an agreement that would allow cross-country skiers and snowshoers to use the yurt system in the winter of 2012-2013.

It's our understanding that the Boise National Forest wants IDPR to obtain a special use permit to operate the yurt system, and provide a certificate of liability insurance coverage for the yurt system.

This should not take months to resolve. It's our opinion that the Forest Service is making a "mountain out of a molehill" with respect to concerns about liability insurance to indemnify the Forest Service from self-guided people using the Park and Ski trails and the yurts.

Here are the facts:

·         The yurt-rental system has been running seamlessly on a sustainable basis since the first yurt was built in 1996, without any significant concerns or complaints—or any lawsuits.
·         The Idaho City Park and Ski Area yurts are used by approximately 2,500 people per year—mostly in the winter—and yurt rentals generate approximately $80,000 in revenue, according to IDPR. The temporary closure of the yurts in Fall 2012 resulted in the loss of $26,155 in revenue.
·         The Idaho City Park and Ski trails and yurts were initially a collaborative partnership project between the Idaho City Ranger District and IDPR. The first yurt, Banner Ridge, was built in 1996. Volunteers from the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA), Nordic Voice and REI helped build the yurt. Since that time, there has been significant community investment in the yurt system on an ongoing basis.
·         Former Idaho City Ranger District Recreation and Trails officer Terry Sexton was instrumental in the creation of the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas and yurt system. The Idaho City Ranger District should be a partner in the trail and yurt systems and assist in making the program successful, not erect bureaucratic obstacles. 
·         Yurt-rental revenue is critical for paying for grooming the cross-country ski trails. By temporarily halting the yurt-rental program, the Forest Service and IDPR are jeopardizing the revenue stream that makes the Park and Ski trails usable by winter recreationists.

Mr. Strack has indicated that the Forest Service is asking for more liability insurance than IDPR can afford. Forest Service officials say that a special-use applicant that receives all of the revenue from a yurt operation should be expected to pay for liability insurance. The question is, how much?  

We urge the USFS and IDPR to find a short-term fix this month so that the yurts can reopen by New Year’s. Postponing this matter any longer would, we strongly believe, be a great disservice to the public that has long cherished and financially supported these trail and yurt systems.

Thank you for your immediate consideration of this matter of great importance to many Idahoans.


Steve Stuebner
Outdoor recreationist, blogger and author

Mike Lanza,
Outdoor recreationist, Backpacker Magazine Northwest Editor, blogger, and author

Dean Meer 
Boise REI store manager

Chris Haunold, owner
Idaho Mountain Touring

Tomas Patek, owner
World Cycle

Tom "Chel" Chelstrom
Former Boise REI store manager

Joyce Fabre
Boise Women's Hiking Network

JT More
Backcountry skier and frequent yurt user

Mike Needham
Boise Trailheads Meet Up Facebook group

Mark Menlove
Executive Director, Winter Wildlands Alliance

Brad Acker
Patrol Director, 705 NSP Backcountry Ski Patrol

Santiago Rodriguez
National Ski Patrol—SW Idaho Avalanche Instructor Trainer
Author of “Mores Creek Summit” Blog

Sandy Epeldi
Recreationist, vice president of the Idaho Outdoor Association, author

Branden Durst
State Senator, District 18, Boise

Mat Erpelding

State Representative, District 19 House Seat A

Holli Woodings
State Representative, District 19 House Seat B

Janie Ward-Engelking
State Representative, District 18 House Seat A

Lauren McLean
Boise City Councilwoman, recreationist, skier

Suki Molina
Recreationist, skier

Kay Hummel
Backcountry and Nordic skier and volunteer

Marianne Nelson
Recreationist, skier

We know that there are hundreds, if not several thousand people who feel the same way we do about this situation. Write the decision-makers and make yourself heard!

Many thanks!
- SS