Campground to remain closed due to landslide concern

GRANITE FALLS — The opening of a popular National Forest campground beneath a hill prone to landslides has been delayed indefinitely until safety can be assessed.

The Gold Basin Campground, 14 miles east of Granite Falls, is the largest campground on the Mountain Loop Highway, with 89 campsites and well-developed facilities such as fresh water and toilets.

The campground sits across the South Fork Stillaguamish River from a hillside with a history of landslides going back several decades and as recent as the late 1990s.

In the wake of the Oso mudslide, the U.S. Forest Service decided that the Gold Basin slope needed further study before the campground could be opened, said Peter Forbes, the service’s Darrington District ranger.

“The risk hasn’t changed. Our sensitivity and awareness of the risk has changed,” Forbes said.

Forbes said the Forest Service is looking to bring in experts to analyze the Gold Basin slide, although the details and funding for that haven’t been finalized.

The Forest Service is also working with the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians to build a structure at the toe of Gold Basin to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the South Fork Stillaguamish. That work likely won’t be finished for another year or more, Forbes said.

A 1999 draft report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cited Gold Basin and the Steelhead Haven slide that fell March 22 as the two active areas that had the potential for a catastrophic slide.

Both landslide areas were subsequently called out in a 2004 flood management plan for the Stillaguamish River, whose focus was primarily on reducing damage to life, property and the environment from flooding.

The plan’s recommendation for the Gold Basin landslide was to stabilize the slope to address public safety concerns while reducing the amount of sediment discharged into the river. Another option, identified but not recommended, was to close the campground entirely.

Most low-elevation campgrounds in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are opening for the summer Friday. Those at higher elevations are still closed due to snow.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165 or cwinters@heraldnet.com.

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