In September 2003, DCSki reported on a new proposed ski area development in the Laneville-Dry Fork area of Randolph County, West Virginia called Almost Heaven. If built, the new resort would offer the biggest vertical in the Mid-Atlantic region (over 2,000 feet), and would be comparable in size to many resorts in New England.
Last year, the US Forest Service solicited comments on four alternative new management plans for the Monongahela National Forest. The developer of the potential new resort, Bill Bright, was among 15,000 people who submitted letters or signed petitions expressing an opinion. A CD that includes all of the letters is available upon request from the Monongahela National Forest office in Elkins, West Virginia. In his letter to Mr. Clyde Thompson, Supervisor of the National Forest, Bright reveals that Almost Heaven will offer a “range of winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and cross country skiing” as well as warm weather activities such as “golf, biking, and hiking.” In addition to day visitors, “Almost Heaven will attract many lifestyle visitors who will purchase and build second homes on the project.”
He also states that the new resort will bring many economic benefits to the state of West Virginia such as new jobs and increased tax revenues, while being “built in a way to preserve and enhance the environmental beauty of West Virginia.” He also admits to having spent over $3,000,000 on the project thus far, with “many hundreds of millions of dollars” being spent by the time it is finished.
Mr. Bright opposes two parts of the new forest plan for the Monongahela National Forest: a wilderness designation for the Roaring Plains and the expansion of the Otter Creek Wilderness to incorporate a portion of the Dry Fork stream.
The Roaring Plains shares a three mile boundary with the proposed new resort. Bright is concerned that a wilderness status for it would restrict mechanized fire control techniques on proposed Almost Heaven lands. The 1964 Wilderness Act specifies that “no permanent habitations or human habitation is permitted” on land designated as wilderness. In short, it would restrict the construction of roads for fire control. “The restrictions a Wilderness designation would place on mechanized fire control will needlessly and negligently threaten the substantial investments and safety of our development and its patrons,” Bright argues.
With regard to the expansion of the Otter Creek Wilderness, Mr. Bright worries that it may cause the Dry Fork to be designated as a “Tier 3.0 stream.”
“If the stream classification is affected by expansion of Otter Creek Wilderness, there would be serious unintended consequences on the approximately 80,000 acres of private property that lie within the Dry Fork watershed,” he writes. Ski resorts require significant amounts of water for snowmaking and a Tier 3.0 regulation for that stream might drastically curtail its use by the resort.
From this letter, it is clear that Mr. Bright has invested a significant amount of money in the new resort, but may be holding off on development for now until Monongahela National Forest finalizes its plans for Roaring Plains and Otter Creek.
In addition to submitting his letter to the Forest Supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest, Mr. Bright sent copies to West Virginia politicians including Senators Byrd and Rockefeller, Congresswoman Shelley Capito, Congressmen Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, and Governor Joe Manchin.