Nestled in a narrow valley at the remote north
end of Lake Chelan, Wash., there's a tiny town that can only be
reached by boat, float plane, or a hike over the North Cascade
mountains. Now it will stay that way.
seven years, a developer threatened to boom Stehekin's size by
almost 15 percent (HCN, 11/9/98: Even in the remote West, growth
happens). Many of Stehekin's 100 residents worried that the planned
condominium development was too big and intrusive.
"Scale is everything in this relatively
unspoiled area," says Myra Bergman Ramos, a Stehekin resident.
The scale will remain small because in February,
the National Park Service and the Conservation Fund, a national
land preservation group, completed a $1 million deal to buy the
land, preventing the construction of condos within the town's 459
"This is the best possible outcome we
could have hoped for," says Ramos. She says the victory is proof of
a grassroots effort that worked, and if necessary, "we can do it
The victory ends wrangling between the
landowner and the Park Service over a possible land trade. Stehekin
is a small pocket of private land surrounded by the 62,000 acre
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Originally, developer William
Stifter refused to accept cash for his land, saying he didn't want
the federal government getting more land in the valley. Instead,
Stifter wanted to trade for other public land in the area.
Conservationists say Stifter tried to force a
lopsided exchange to put more land in private hands. Stehekin
Alert, a coalition of local residents and environmentalists,
objected to the Park Service trying to trade away land they say
included sensitive wildlife habitat and wetlands. Following a flood
of comments opposed to the swap, the agency pulled its land from
When the stalemate broke this winter,
Stifter told the Seattle Times that he would
accept cash instead of a land trade, because, after seven years, "I