The Paving Of Paradise Continues
First off, in the long running battle over the future of the Martis Valley, it looks like some sort of agreement has been reached between developers (who tend to look at a gorgeous, wide-open alpine valley like the Martis in pretty much the same way that lions look at zebras) and environmental groups like Sierra Watch. Plans to build 635 homes and an 18-hole golf course will proceed, but at least the number of homes to be built has been reduced and plans for two more golf courses have been scrapped. Also, a fee on new homes will raise $72 million dollars over the next 25 years to pay for open space preservation and habitat restoration.
Secondly, it was announced today that Ritz-Carlton (yes, that Ritz-Carlton) will be building a $300 million dollar 5-star resort at the top of the Gondola at Northstar, which I guess means in the area where Big Springs Lodge is now. Its going to be called the Ritz-Carlton Highlands, and it's supposed to look something like this:
I can't help but notice the strong resemblance to yet another one of those places where I wasted some of my miss-spent youth, Oregon's famous Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood (a.k.a. "that hotel from The Shining").
I'm an old Northstar employee (Rock On Purchasing Department!!!) and I have a soft spot for ol' Flatstar, as the often-overlooked mountain is derisively called by some. So generally I'm happy for their success, and maybe a little biased.
But at the same time, part of me can't help but flinch at these announcements, particularly as concerns the Martis Valley. Large, open, undeveloped valleys like the Martis are a rarity in the Sierra. The thought of chewing up such beautiful open space in order to erect yet more million dollar palacial second-homes (most of which will remain empty 11 months of the year anyway) saddens me.
The lakes, rivers and forests of the Sierra Nevada were the original reason I chose to make this region my home. Development is inevitable, especially as the Reno/Tahoe area outgrows its "gambling and divorce" reputation and the wider world starts to realize what an incredible quality of life we enjoy here. But as always, we have to be careful that in our desire for growth we don't lose the very things that make the Northern Sierra such a treasure in the first place. Hokey as it sounds, I believe the mountains belong to all of us, and that means the responsibility falls to us to defended them from threats. Not only must we protect the ecosystems that maintain the life of the mountains, but we also must remember that the Sierra Nevada shouldn't be the exclusive property of the very wealthy. In the end I think there may be room in the Sierra for the Ritz-Carlton Highlands, but there has to be room for the Martis Valley too.