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Govy to Timberline gondola part of larger vision of the future posted on 05/01/2022

Mountain residents who have been around long enough may remember the Skiway Tram that ran from Government Camp to Timberline Lodge back in the 1950s. And in a few years, it's possible a similar ride will be available, with Timberline eyeing a gondola to connect the lodge and Summit Pass, as outlined in the Master Development Plan (MDP) released in late March.


“It’s going to be great for a wide variety of customers,” said John Burton, Timberline’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, noting that skiers, sightseers, hikers and more would be able to use the gondola throughout the year, all while removing traffic and congestion from Timberline Road and Hwy. 26.

The MDP, a 134-page document that can be found on Timberline’s website, www.timberlinelodge.com, offers a 10-year plan and includes bevy of conceptual ideas for the direction of future development and improvements, including upgrades to the Summit Pass area. The document is required as part of the special use permit Timberline and Summit work under, and Burton noted that after Timberline Lodge operator R.L.K. and Company took over operations of Summit in 2018, the new MDP process began.

Burton noted that the process to develop the new plan included stakeholder and community feedback (including various partners such as Clackamas County and the Government Camp Community Planning Organization), while taking a broader view of the new combined recreation area and an eye toward sustainable development.

“The last thing Timberline wants is to build something that delivers more capacity than we can handle,” Burton said, adding that the Timberline special use permit is the longest held permit in the country. “We need to keep building and maintaining our facilities.”

A press release on the MDP noted that it was reviewed and accepted by the U.S. Forest Service.

“While it does not approve any of the concepts held within, it recognizes that they are consistent with the Forest Plan,” Jeff Kohnstamm, R.L.K. and Company President and Area Operator, said in the release.

The approval doesn’t mean that visitors will get to enjoy a gondola ride from Government Camp to Timberline this year (or even in the near future).

Burton noted that other projects in the MDP will likely be tackled first, including a new facilities shop that could include space for employee locker rooms and ski patrol, along with increased snow making for Timberline.

“Those would be the first proposals from the Master Development Plan, if I had to guess today,” he said. “Things will happen at Timberline before things happen at Summit. There will be lots of things going on in addition to moving forward with this gondola project.”

Burton added that when Kohnstamm is ready to move ahead, they will go back to the plan and then make a formal proposal for the gondola project, which could transport up to 2,000 people per hour.

The formal proposal would then kick off the National Environmental Policy Act work, which could take up to three years to complete.

Burton estimated that the timeline for the gondola to be up and running might be the 2028-29 season, adding it took seven years for Timberline to get its bike park done. He also noted that Timberline will have to coordinate with area partners on the timing due to other projects, including a possible move of the rest area at the east end of Government Camp.

“We’ll talk to everyone and we’ll get through it,” Burton said.

By Garth Guibord/MT





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