Raising hell

  Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge on earth and one of the most spectacular canyons in the country, may one day resemble Disneyland, warns one critic. "Envision this place," says Ric Bailey, director of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council. "It's a backcountry place with dusty unpaved roads. The Forest Service is going to turn it into a tourist trap." Bailey is concerned about the Hells Canyon Overlook Project, a $1.4 million plan to create restrooms, overlooks and paved roads on the west rim of the canyon. Bailey's group filed a complaint in federal court Sept. 30, which sought to block the project proposal on the ground that it violated the agency's management plan. The Forest Service then withdrew its proposal. Ed Cole, the ranger who is shepherding a new overlook plan, says it won't change much but will better explain the agency's rationale. "We're trying to provide a quality experience for everybody," he says. "We're creating one corridor of highly developed road and closing others to still provide some backcountry." Cole would like to see the construction begin in mid-June, but Bailey warns that his group will go back to court to protect the area from development. To obtain a copy of the final plan, due in January, or to make comments, call Tom Glasford at the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area office, 503/426-4978. Ric Bailey and the Hells Canyon Preservation Council can be reached at 503/432-8100.