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Monday, July 22, 2013

More on Summit Outside from an Eyewitness

Guest post by Brad
Note: This was originally posted as a comment to our post: Summit Series Descends On Ogden Valley  We thought it was important enough for the front page.  Thanks to our humble reader, Brad, for sharing his insight.
I’m not quite sure where to begin with my thoughts on “Summit Outside”. The folks from Summit Series obviously own Powder Mountain, and they can now do pretty much whatever they wish with the land. But I hope and pray that their actions will match their list of supposedly altruistic objectives – particularly when it comes to environmental awareness.

I hiked up to Mary’s Bowl just before the event began. From what I saw, it seems this group is much more interested in throwing epic parties than being stewards of the land. I realize it is impossible to hold such an event without leaving at least some mark on the mountain, but the magnitude of the operation and its impact on the ecosystem was simply unnecessary. They could have easily accommodated and impressed the Summit Outside attendees with a much more minimalistic approach. The number of paths (both vehicular and pedestrian) crisscrossing the event site, the number of people trampling virgin meadows located nowhere near the site (far away from the many new paths Summit had already created), the sickening number and size of cars, trucks, RVs, 4X4s, trailers, golf carts shaped like Alice-in-Wonderland ladybugs with speakers blaring music, the ridiculous quantity of materials used to build tent platforms, lounge areas, bars, and outdoor “DJ/dance” stages, and the absurd number of cheap camping-related “souvenirs” for each and every attendee (most of which will probably land in the dumpster). Not to mention the dozens of portable structures dragged onto the site for kitchens, dining halls, bathrooms, showers, and the main performance stage.

It was surreal to see this level of activity in a beautiful area that I (and my family) have hiked and enjoyed for decades. Probably the most ridiculous and unnecessary features were the strings of light bulbs and fluorescent tubes (powered by multiple gasoline-powered generators) hanging from the branches of a beautiful grove of young aspen trees, and a wading pool dug into a slope next to the main stage (landscaped with sod, flowers and a large foot bridge). The list goes on and on and on.

You can see much of what I've described in the aerial photos posted on the Standard-Examiner website. One of the Summit Outside promotional brochures (which can be found at invites attendees to “return to nature”. The brochure includes pictures of the interior of the tents used for their “glamping” (luxury camping on a grand scale). It is absolutely AMAZING to me that a group like this cannot figure out a way to connect with nature without destroying it, or without at least making a reasonable effort to minimize their impact on the land. I’m even more amazed by the way the local media has reported on this event. Check out the July 21st Standard-Examiner article written by Jesus Lopez, Jr. (Powder Mountain’s Summit Outside pampers those seeking positive change). The article quotes Renee Loux, co-founder of skin care company Andalou Naturals, as stating: “I’m utterly impressed with the infrastructure they have and how light a footprint it is. The respect of the landscape and the detail is really commendable.” Seriously?? Did Mr. Lopez even walk the site so he could make his own observations? Or did he simply quote the words of a person who is likely one of the major investors in the Summit Series development?

Again, I realize that Summit now owns the mountain, and valley residents will have virtually no say in what they will do with that beautiful land. But we also need to recognize that this is a very wealthy and influential group of young people with ZERO experience developing a pristine and complex ecosystem. They will likely do some things right, but they will also make their share of mistakes.

The residents of this valley need to politely but persistently remind the folks from Summit that the manner in which they manage and develop Powder Mountain will have a DIRECT impact on the quality of our lives – particularly when it comes to the amount of traffic making its way through the valley, and the impact of their development on our local watershed. I truly hope someone from Summit will read this post and perhaps even respond. If the Summit Outside event is a sign of things
 to come, we all have plenty of reasons to be concerned.


Brad said...

Thanks for posting my comments on the front page! I tried hiking back up to the event site again early this morning (using a different route) but couldn't get very close due to security. I really do hope Summit will show they care about the mountain by cleaning-up after themselves. Of course, if homes are going to be built on that same site, the damage caused to the vegetation by Summit Outside probably won’t matter much. I just hope there won’t be any trash left behind. I hope Summit realizes that I (and others in this valley) are NOT anti-Summit. From what I’ve heard, the Summit folks could bring some very positive changes to this area. But we LOVE our Pow Mow very very much. I was lucky enough to be a mountain host during the last few years that Dr. Cobabe still owned the mountain, and I don't want to see the land mismanaged.

Ogden Valley said...

Brad, thanks for taking the time to share. Let us know how the site looks on future hikes.

Eden Hiker said...

I hiked up there in June and saw the beginning of the work on this event. I was really, really saddened that a group that brags repeatedly about their environmental awareness would rape the land this way. The aerial photos from the Standard say it all. I also wondered if they used insecticide to get rid of the biting flies that invade Powder Mountain in the summer. And what about the mosquitos? Summit Outside is a misnomer. They could have achieved the same "outside" experience by using a venue that already exists, like an outdoor amphitheatre. I guess it was just an opportunity for the Summit group to sell lots.

Eden Resident said...

Other than personal bug spray, no insecticide was used at any point through out the event prep and the event itself. The flies and mosquitos were part of the experience :)

Additionally - the trails created were using existing well padded game trails and no old grove trees were cut down in the process. In fact no large trees were cut for the entire event. The sculptures and wood structures were constructed with deadwood. The also hired a green team to be in charge of helping maintain sorting glass, plastic, compost and landfill items for recycling and processing of the event waste. This alone is something most events this size do not have.

Anything that was not sorted and processed post event - including the "souvenirs" that Brad mentions were sorted and stored for future re-use or donation. (Brad, were the items you were talking about the solar powered lights put in each tent? since tents were not electrified to reduce impact. The US made notebooks from recycled materials? The tin camping cups or metal water bottles everyone received so guests weren't using disposable cups or plastic water bottles? Despite whether they were cheap or expensive, every item had a specific purpose, with overall impact in mind.)

As someone who worked the pre/post-event, at the event and a lover of nature- I can understand the reaction you have, truly. I love Powder Mountain. It's an incredible refuge and hiking destination. I have also attended and worked other festivals and events similar to this through out the country and can say that though what you saw may have been unsettling, it was also done in a much more conscious manner than most. Brad, as you also pointed out- the footprint of the event was also specifically kept to where development would eventually be anyway.

I'm sure this doesn't make everything suddenly ok for you. I myself prefer nothing more than a hammock, sleeping bag and the open sky... I just want to point out that there was indeed a lot of thought about this type of stuff specifically. Of course there is always room for improvement. I'm sure the group would love to hear your positively voiced feedback and suggestions. They plan to live here and want to be good neighbors. I enjoyed working with them.

Your above comments are observations and assumptions; and good change comes from positive suggestions, feedback and most importantly, dialogue.