A recent Triplicate article “A and 2nd street condo site sold” noted the stated intention of Los Angeles investor Jason Roe to build a resort, hotel, 18-hole golf course, and luxury retirement community in Smith River. Roe mentions his intention to keep the resort’s environmental footprint minimal. Also mentioned is the potential for a non-denominational spiritual center to be called “Utopia.”

If you browse the project’s intriguing website pelicanheightsestate.com, you will not find reference to this “Utopia” but instead the message that the whole development package will provide a huge economic boom for the area, allow an influx of tourists and new residents to experience the natural world, and cause little or even no harm to the environment.

In reality, Roe is proposing to build a massive development on a steep, largely undeveloped tract of land that could potentially affect several different pristine watersheds in Gilbert Creek, Lopez Creek and the Winchuck River (A popular fishing river boasting steelhead, cutthroat trout, and salmon).

Additionally, golf courses are oftentimes notoriously bad for the environment, typically involving heavy pesticide and herbicide usage, a huge land footprint, substantial water usage, the removal of large numbers of native plants and trees to be replaced by a grass monoculture, and potentially massive problems with nutrient runoff, erosion, and excessive sediment due to forfeited native plant cover. This is to say nothing of the added impacts of building a large hotel and retirement community in nearby areas, which could spell big trouble for water quality and fishing in the area.

Economic development is certainly important but perhaps a better method for such development would focus on building retirement communities, hotels, and businesses designed to attract those enamored with the region’s immense natural beauty but not situated in such a sensitive, lightly developed area.

Brian Wagenaar