The article about the re-opening of the U.S. Forest Service Gold Basin campground is rife with errors and contradictions. The worst of all is the statement that in re-opening the campground “trees that had died were cut down.” In fact, numerous healthy, living trees were cut down, some more than four feet in diameter. I had talked with several officials and workers about those trees, with workers expressing regret, and officials always claiming that they were “hazard trees.” It turns out that any conifer that split into more than a single trunk high above was deemed a “hazard tree,” simply because it didn’t fit their definition of arboreal perfection. It’s a disgrace to see such wonderful trees cut down in the name of safety. Any tree can be deemed a “hazard tree,” because it can fall over or drop a huge branch unexpectedly.
But if safety is a concern, the campground should never have been re-opened due to the glacial till cliffs directly across the river from the campground. That’s the real safety issue, which has been geologically mapped as potentially catastrophic. In fact, it presents a far higher danger than that of geologically similar Oso slide five years ago, which killed 43 people. The entire Gold Basin campground could easily be buried by a slide from the far bigger cliffs that sit directly across the river from the campground.