STEVENSON — The road to the Upper Wind River Winter Sports Area will be plowed only to the McClellan Sno-Park this season as Skamania County copes with a dwindling budget.
In the past, road No. 30 has been plowed to Lone Butte Sno-Park, a large parking lot with a warming shelter that is three or four miles farther north.
The Skamania County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a plan to plow the snow with county workers through Nov. 30, then use state and federal dollars to hire a private contractor for the remainder of the winter.
Larry Douglass, county public works director, said the county has almost $40,000 from the Forest Service and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission that can be spent for snow removal in the upper Wind River area.
The average cost for the past five years has been $59,000 per season, with a high of $144,000 in the winter of 2007-2008.
Douglass said road No. 30 will be kept open until the funds are gone. Snow removal might be less frequent and finished before spring arrives.
Discussion between Skamania County, state parks and the Forest Service came up with the plan to plow only to McClellan Sno-Park.
Ken Sandusky of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest said the 60-vehicle Koshko Sno-Park will be designated for snowmobilers and the 30-space McClellan Sno-Park will be for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.
Snow trail No. 148 between Koshko and McClellan sno-parks — normally open just for non-motorized users — will be open to all to provide snowmobilers access to the unplowed portion of Wind River road north of McClellan.
Parking at the tubing hill at Oldman Pass will be provided, Douglass said.
The inaccessible Lone Butte Sno-Park has 50 parking spots. It is used almost exclusively by snowmobilers, who ride north and east through the Sawtooth huckleberry fields to the Trout Lake area and beyond.
Douglass said Skamania County is faced with a $1 million cut to its road budget, "a huge decrease for us.''
Snow removal in the populated southern portion of Skamania County is a necessary priority over access to winter recreation areas, he said.
Skamania County has a web site with updates regarding access to the Upper Wind winter recreation area. The address is www.skamaniacounty.org/public-works/homepage/upper-wind-river-recreation-area.
Other winter recreation areas in the southern Gifford Pinchot National Forest include the Cougar and Marble Mountain sno-parks on the south side of Mount St. Helens and the Atkisson, Flattop, Pineside and SnowKing sno-parks near Trout Lake in the Mount Adams District.