EQUAL AND REASONABLE ACCESS FOR KIDS
Since its founding in 2009, the Bend Endurance Academy (BEA) has not been allowed to operate its community youth Nordic programs at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center. During that time, BEA has run its Nordic programs successfully on public lands at the community-managed Meissner Nordic trails. However, with tenuous snow conditions at Meissner in the last two years, the BEA Board of Directors has been trying to secure equal and reasonable access for BEA’s Nordic youth programs to operate on public lands at the Mt. Bachelor-managed Nordic Center, as well as at other US Forest Service (USFS) snow parks.
BEA PROGRAMS GET LOCAL KIDS OUTSIDE AND ACTIVE
Since its first winter season in 2009, BEA’s enrollment has grown from 19 middle and high school Nordic skiers to more than 500 local kids ages three to 18 who ski, bike and rock climb with us. The Bend community has been asking BEA to grow because we offer accessible programs that get kids outside with a unique balance of fun, adventure, responsibility, and age-appropriate training.
We take our mission to engage local kids in fun outdoor sport and adventure very seriously. We now partner with three local schools to offer after-school programming, and we pick up kids from several elementary and middle schools on early-release Wednesdays to shuttle them to ski and bike trails. In the last three years, our outreach efforts have resulted in nearly 20% annual growth in the number of kids we serve.
This success is a positive story for the whole community. It is our hope that, with Mt. Bachelor’s support, we can continue to have a deep and lasting impact on our community’s youth.
Seven years ago, BEA’s founding board attempted to forge an agreement with Mt. Bachelor to allow kids enrolled in BEA programs to ski at the Nordic Center. Unfortunately, their requests were denied, ultimately causing them to give up trying to convince Mt. Bachelor to grant access. Instead, the Board established a partnership with the US Forest Service to use trails elsewhere, and successfully secured a permit to run BEA Nordic programs at Meissner Snow Park with the support of the Meissner Nordic Ski Club.
Since 2014, warmer temperatures and poor snow conditions at Meissner have forced BEA to explore alternative trail options at higher elevations where temperatures are colder and snow is more plentiful. By February 2015, when the lack of snow at Meissner sent our coaches searching for snow elsewhere, we were hopeful that Mt. Bachelor leadership would see the benefit of pulling together as a community to support local ski programs benefitting local kids on our public lands. It seemed to us (and many in the community) that having access to our public lands at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center offered an obvious solution to the problem and would keep the region’s kids skiing.
After weeks of negotiation last February, Mt. Bachelor leadership did agree to temporarily provide paid access to BEA’s youth programs for the last two weekends of the Nordic season. In an email to the BEA Board, Dave Rathbun, Mt. Bachelor President and General Manager, wrote:
“We accept your proposal for the next two weekends to complete your programs for this season. Each coach and participant will require a valid ticket or pass.” He went on to note that, “Later this spring/summer we will be looking at our longer term approach with the FS on how to address similar requests in the future, should we be faced with such challenging snow conditions as we have experienced this year.”
- Dave Rathbun, President and General Manager, Mt. Bachelor
in an email dated February 20 2015
BEA’s youth programs closed their 2014/2015 season with two fun-filled weekends at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center. Nearly 170 BEA kids skied at the Nordic Center those weekends and had a great time. The youngest were first and second graders gliding along behind their coaches. Among the oldest, were five high school skiers who had just qualified to compete in the March 2015 Cross Country Ski Junior National Championship. With access to the Mt. Bachelor managed trails, these five young athletes were able to train for Junior Nationals on groomed snow. Representatives from Mt. Bachelor, BEA and the USFS agreed that the access arrangement worked well.
Since June, the BEA Board has revisited negotiations in order to create a long-lasting, mutually beneficial business partnership between Mt. Bachelor and BEA’s Nordic Programs. The goals are simple:
- To allow BEA youth access to groomed trails at convenient times that align with family schedules; and
- To offer the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center an opportunity to increase revenues and build its future market.
Importantly, BEA is not asking for special treatment, just the opportunity to fairly share our public- land trails when other public trails are not viable.
Sadly, in July, Mt. Bachelor management came back to BEA with severely restricted terms for access. Most notably, they explicitly prohibited BEA kids full-paid access to the Nordic Center on early release Wednesdays, on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and during school holidays.
Again, quoting an email from Dave Rathbun:
“We would be happy to extend training privileges to BEA under the following terms should Meissner be closed due to lack of snow in 15/16:
December 1, 2015 to April 3, 2016 – training open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends after 12 noon. Exclusions are during resort holiday periods (Dec. 25-Jan.3, Jan. 16-18, Feb. 13-15, and Mar. 19-27) as well as periods where Mt. Bachelor hosts large, multiday competitions at the Nordic Center (tbd as schedules are finalized).”
- Dave Rathbun, President and General Manager, Mt. Bachelor
in an email dated July 28, 2015
As any parent will attest, youth programs must be offered on early release Wednesdays, on weekend mornings, and during school holidays in order to be viable.
Since July, BEA board leadership has attempted to negotiate more reasonable terms of access with Mt. Bachelor management, but with little success. Because we were not granted reasonable access to Mt. Bachelor’s trails, our strong relationship with the USFS has led us into discussions with the District Ranger about grooming at alternate high-elevation areas when Meissner lacks snow. These talks have been positive, and we expect to be able to work out an arrangement through the USFS for this season if we do not secure equal access to the Mt. Bachelor managed trails.
BEA will continue to work to secure access to the best possible skiing conditions for our participants. In particular, the BEA Board is committed to continuing to work with Mt. Bachelor to build a mutually beneficial partnership. We now urge you to join our “Let the Kids Ski” campaign to support our efforts.
A CALL TO ACTION: “LET THE KIDS SKI” CAMPAIGN
We need your help to secure equal and reasonable access for BEA kids to ski on public lands managed by Mt. Bachelor at the Nordic Center. Click here to learn more about what you can do to support BEA’s “Let the Kids Ski Campaign”.