Lakeside Lodge Expansion Approved
"Water quality is most important regardless of what improvements are made" - Public Comment
Fremont Lake overview. The lake is approximately 11 miles long, 1 mile wide, and 600 feet deep in places.
Fremont in Summer
Fremont Lake in the summer. Lakeside Resort is located on the lower end, approximately 3 miles northeast of Pinedale.
Existing Lakeside Lodge restaurant. The Master Plan calls for the construction of an additional two-story lodge that would have 25 rooms for overnight guests.
"The proposed expansions will over commercialize the lake destroying its unique pristine setting and could pollute the water supply for the Town of Pinedale." - Public Comment
"I would like to see the natural beauty of Fremont Lake be preserved in the way it has been for so many years and not be overwhelmed by growth." - Public Comment
24-slip marina near the restaurant.
"Since the current owners have purchased Lakeside, the area has only improved." - Public Comment
Dogs are required to be on leashes in the Sandy Beach area.
"...it is our observation, that the majority of improperly controlled dogs on Sandy Beach are owned by Pinedale residents, who simply ignore the signed regulations." - USFS response
"We do not have any terrestrial wildlife or aquatic concerns pertaining to this project." - Wyoming Game & Fish Department
"I am against any more public land being developed by private parties." - Public Comment
"All the alternatives (save No Action) will result in year-round occupancy at the lodge, indeed the full development will establish a new town at the south end of Fremont Lake." - Public Comment
The Lodge permit area is close to summer homes, a public boat ramp, beach and other existing developments
The lake is popular for water skiing and wake boarding.
"Less than 5% of the lakeshore is developed as summer homes or Lakeside Lodge. That leaves over 95% of the lakeshore available for the public to use freely." - USFS Response
The Bridger Wilderness, Half Moon Lake (and resort), Fremont Lake, CCC Ponds and White Pine Ski and Summer Resort are all nearby destinations.
Rock breakwater for marina slips near restaurant.
A National Forest campground is also located on the lake.
People with RVs camp at Lakeside's campground, at the nearby National Forest campground, and at dispersed locations along the lower end of the lake.
Upper boat launch
There are 4 boat launches on the lake that are accessible by road. One at Lakeside Lodge, one near Lakeside at the lower end of the lake, this one pictured at the National Forest campground mid-lake, and one by the summer homes.
The CCC Ponds are approximately a half mile from Lakeside Lodge.
Half Moon Lake Resort
Half Moon Lake Resort on Half Moon Lake, approximately a mile away as the crow flies, 5 miles by vehicle.
New lodge, cabins, boat slips and campground ok’d
by Dawn Ballou, Photos by Pinedale Online
January 27, 2005
The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) recently released their Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Lakeside Lodge and Marina Master Development Plan. Kniffy Hamilton, Forest Supervisor for the BTNF selected Alternative 4, as described in the Environmental Assessment, with itemized modifications, for implementation.
The approved alternative will allow Lakeside Lodge to expand their facilities to build a new 25-room lodge, add seven more duplex cabins, expand the existing restaurant, add 39 boat slips with a floating breakwater, and construct a 29-site campground, among other facility improvements. The resort will expand from a summer-season-only to year-round operating season.
To obtain a copy of the Decision Notice, contact Cindy Stein at the Pinedale Ranger District, PO Box 220, Pinedale, WY 82941, 307-367-4326. Anyone wishing to appeal the decision, must file a written notice of appeal to the Appeal Deciding Officer in Ogden, Utah, within 45 days of the publication of the legal notice of this decision in the Casper Star Tribune newspaper.
Proposed new facilities:
1. 25-room lodge
2. Three 40’x40’ duplex cabins and four 25’ x 35’ duplex cabin.
3. 39 boat slips with breakwater
4. Expansion of existing restaurant from 3,800 sq. ft to 5,000 sq. ft.
5. Group function pavilion
6. 29-site campground
7. 40 boat/trailer capacity dry boat storage
8. Restroom/shower/maintenance building for campground use
9. Repairing existing boat ramp with addition of a small breakwater
10. Enlarge resort entrance with additional parking spaces
Existing facilities to be removed:
1. 3 duplex log cabins
2. 20-site campground near Fremont Lake
4. Utility/maintenance building
Existing facilities to be retained:
1. Two-story restaurant building
2. 6 duplex log cabins
3. 31-slip marina and refueling dock
4. Septic system and drain field
According to the Decision Notice, the overall theme of the design character will be rustic in nature, blending in as best as possible with the surroundings. All buildings will be constructed of log, stone and/or other natural materials. Roadways and parking areas will be centrally located to service the greatest number of facilities while altering the minimum amount of land. Granite boulders, trees, shrubs and other landscaping will be used to lessen the visual impact of roadways and parking areas. Natural vegetation will be retained and native vegetation used, where possible. All utilities will be underground. Disturbed areas will be reclaimed and landscaped as development progresses. Boat slips will be geared to average size sail and motor boats, with several slips able to accommodate boats up to 26 feet.
The resort’s operating season will be expanded to allow a winter season. They will provide full services 7-days a week during the busier summer season from May 1st to the end of October. During the winter, they will be allowed to operate with reduced services from November to the end of April. Winter operations will include the restaurant, cabins and lodge. The restaurant would be open 4-5 days a week including the weekend. Two to three cabins would be open 7 days per week, and the lodge would have 10-12 rooms open for the full week.
Environmental concerns addressed
Many people responded during the Environmental Assessment (EA) public comment period. Concerns raised included preservation of the water quality of Fremont Lake, the water supply for the Town of Pinedale; wildlife migration and threatened/endangered species impacts; protection of nearby cultural resources; and impacts of use expansion and influx of people on the lake and surrounding area.
As part of addressing water quality concerns, the existing campsites will be relocated away from the lakeshore and the entire septic system will be equipped with alarms and automatic shut-offs. An erosion control plan has been developed. Existing vegetation will be disturbed as minimally as possible, all disturbed soil must be re-vegetated, and existing lakeshore vegetation protected. A pet policy includes leash requirements and a pet waste disposal plan. The lake water will be regularly sampled and tested for water quality monitoring.
The Decision found that the project proposal and area impacted would not affect any known scientific, cultural, or historic resource sites. No threatened, endangered or sensitive species, or their critical habitats, are affected by this decision.
All construction plans for buildings, roads, parking areas, etc. must be submitted in advance to the Forest Service for approval before construction can begin.
The Decision Notice includes a 125-page document containing submitted public comment and the Forest Service response to received comments about the Master Development Plan. Comments were received both strongly in favor and opposed to the proposed development. Selected public comment highlights are below.
Editor's Note: Many lengthy comments were submitted during the public comment period, with a wide variety of perspectives. Please also read the original document for the entire public comments, and related responses from the Forest Service, to put these excerpts into complete context.
Kevin Haffey/Pinedale: "Since the current owners have purchased Lakeside, the area has only improved."
Joe Zuback/Pinedale: "I believe that there is room for controlled expansion without jeopardizing public safety."
C.W. (Bill) Schertz/Pinedale: "Water quality is most important regardless of what improvements are made to Lakeside Lodge and Marina"
Luna B. Leopold/Pinedale: "The best alternative is Alt. 1, no action."
Sue Hanson/Pinedale: "This expansion will only destroy and pollute our drinking water (second cleanest water in the United States), destroy the peaceful tranquility and beauty of the lake itself, and over run the very small picnic area and sandy beach; and for what, an almighty buck in some corporate pocket book." "Pinedale and the surrounding areas are loved because of the quaint, old fashioned scenario of the town and people. We are not known for our ‘five star hotels.’ And they do love our mountains! They come from all over the world to hike and climb the Winds." "Pinedale, Cora, Boulder, Daniel, Big Piney, LaBarge and all of Sublette County, say goodbye to our beautiful lake and its surrounding area if indeed this expansion is approved. This proposed development is merely for the benefit of a few individuals’ pocket books, not any recognized, much less established need for the use and expansion of OUR public lands."
William Belveal/Pinedale: "We, in my opinion have enough human distruction of our resources on public lands, without allowing more of it on one of our beautiful resources."
Richard Mathis/adjacent cabin owner to Lakeside Lodge/Rock Springs: "I would like to see the natural beauty of Fremont Lake be preserved in the way it has been for so many years and not be overwhelmed by growth."
Doris and Buzz Burzlander/Pinedale: "We would prefer that services for the public such as cafes and lodging be built on private land." "Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that the Lodge should be allowed to upgrade all existing facilities, including water, septic system and visual but no expansion should be allowed."
Pinedale Mayor Rose Skinner: "Fremont Lake is the drinking water supply for the Town of Pinedale. It is a surface water source that requires stringent management of its watershed in order for the Town to avoid a very expensive filtration system." "We believe that Alternative #3 is probably the most acceptable plan if expansion must be developed."
Angie Kolis/Cora: "The owners will get the expansion pushed through so they can put it on the market for the greatest financial gain." "Sandy Beach is so important to the people of Pinedale and the many tourists who come here year after year. It should absolutely be protected from nearby development."
Wyoming Game & Fish Department: "We do not have any terrestrial wildlife or aquatic concerns pertaining to this project."
US Fish & Wildlife Service/Ann Belleman: Re: Grizzly bear, wolf, lynx, bald eagle, fisheries, and water depletion. "All the biologists I contacted indicated there were no likely impacts to the above species for this project."
EPA/Jack A. Rychecky, Chief, Municipal Systems/Colorado: "EPA is concerned that the expansion portends an increase in loss of control over human activities and land use in the watershed, and could likely result in the Town of Pinedale no longer being able to meet the watershed control requirements and other filtration avoidance criteria needed for the system to remain unfiltered." "EPA Region 9 respectfully suggests that any decision on the expansion of Lakeside Lodge be postponed until the BTNF7F Forest Plan revision is conducted."
Barbara Boyce/Pinedale: "I am against any more public land being developed by private parties. They should have to make their development fit what they have and what they had when they bought it. We shouldn’t have to give them more land so they can get bigger and bigger."
Nylla Kunard/Pinedale: "If there must be expansion, it should be kept to a minimum, with as many safeguards as possible."
Charles & Diane Lindeman/California: "Lakeside has done a great job at improving the facility over the years while maintaining the rustic feel of the facility and presenting a pleasant mountain experience."
J. Thomas Johnston, M.D., Sublette Co. Health Officer/Pinedale: "I continue to have concerns about the underground drainage from the extensive sewage effluent that this project will generate." "I do not think the geology of the Fremont Lake basin as been defined adequately to allow any other than minor renovations of the current structures to occur."
Latner Straley/Pinedale: "After reading the E.A. and looking at development plans Alternative #1 appears to be the only logical choice for a facility that probably should never have been located there in the first place." "With a residence on Fremont Lake Road, I have been very familiar with this area for 40+ years. Recent expansion of subdivisions, roads, houses, bike paths, developed fishing ponds and more parking at new boat ramps have already put tremendous pressure on this area pinched between Fremont Lake and Pinedale."
Bill Worf/Missoula, Montana: "The proposed development would represent substantial government competition to all existing overnight accommodations, food service and boat rental businesses in the Pinedale area including the Half Moon Lake Lodge." "When added to the recreation residences presently occupying the lake shore between the Lodge and the lake outlet the general public will be denied free and unfettered access to its beautiful Fremont Lake."
Dave Vlcek/Pinedale: "Ample deeded ground is available within one mile of Fremont Lake for these developers or any other developers wishing to profit from development. If they desire to construct a hotel, they can purchase deeded land and construct one. If developers desire to construct an RV park, they can purchase deeded land and construct one. If they want to store boats or build and rent storage units, they can buy land and enjoy their enterprise. Under no circumstances should public, Forest Service, OUR public land and sensitive Fremont Lake shoreline to boot, be used for hotel, RV park construction, boat storage! The Pinedale Ranger District out to be busying itself reducing or eliminating the burgeoning private expansion on public, Forest Service lands at Fremont Lake, not encouraging it." "A NEW TOWN!: All the alternatives (save No Action) will result in year-round occupancy at the lodge, indeed the full development will establish a new town at the south end of Fremont Lake." "According to the EA, the EA was prepared by Robert 'Bob' Reese of KJ&B Enterprises. Robert Reese' immediate past employment was for the United States Dept. of Agriculture, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Pinedale Ranger District, as District Ranger." "Upon retiring as Pinedale Ranger District Ranger, Mr. Reese appears to have engaged in employment for the current permittees in preparation of this Environemental Assessment. Many people in Pinedale see this as a conflict of interest."
Sally Mackey/Pinedale and 33 other individuals in an identical letter: "The proposed expansions will over commercialize the lake destroying its unique pristine setting and could pollute the water supply for the Town of Pinedale."
Connie Wenz/Pinedale: "No one seems to be able to control the dogs that come there for exercise from Lakeside Lodge."
Jill Tegeler/Pinedale: "I am not against development, but feel that a Bond or similar document would be appropriate to protect our water system for Pinedale and the future."
Anonymous: "Any expansion near to Sandy Beach should be disallowed. The beach has a big archaeological history, (the whole permit area does); also a large patron increase would certainly impact this small beach."
SELECTED FOREST SERVICE RESPONSES:
(In no particular order or relation to specific comments above. See original document for specific Forest Service answers to specific public comment points.)
Pristine setting: "With a Chlorination facility, boat ramp and parking, 11 summer homes, a yacht club, Lakeside Lodge, Sandy Beach, plus a half dozen private homes all located on the south shore of Fremont Lake, the pristine setting is already compromised and the expansion of Lakeside will not significantly change that."
Land management objectives: "The Desired Future Condition for the south end of the lake is DFC 9B, which is for Special Use Recreation Areas. The DFC states that is an area managed for permitted, private recreation homes, permittees, and others offering services to the public, including related roads and sites."
View and use: "The view is important, however the view will not be changed much because of the expansion. Also, there is no reason you cannot go to Lakeside and enjoy the view from there without spending any money. Less than 5% of the lakeshore is developed as summer homes or Lakeside Lodge. That leaves over 95% of the lakeshore available for the public to use freely."
Septic tanks and pollution: "Holding ranks and septic systems have been a part of Fremont Lake for over 50 years. With improvements of Lakeside’s septic system and upgrades to many of the summer home septic systems, there is less potential for polluting the Town water now than existed many years ago."
Dogs and Sandy Beach: "Control of dogs on or near Sandy Beach falls under Forest Service jurisdiction. Dogs are prohibited on Sandy Beach itself and must be on leash within the Sandy Beach parking and picnic area. As you have observed, these requirements are often ignored and it is our observation, that the majority of improperly controlled dogs on Sandy Beach are owned by Pinedale residents, who simply ignore the signed regulations."
Lakeside Lodge management: "The Forest Service believes that the management of Lakeside Lodge is good now and much better than in the past. However, the management of the resort will have to be more intensive to meet the increase in special use permit requirements that will result as part of the expansion. We believe that Lakeside Lodge will be able to respond to meet these requirements. However, if they do not then appropriate permit action will be taken, including permit revocation if warranted."
Permit compliance: "High Plains Marina, LLC has an excellent track record in meeting the permit requirements, safety of the using public, reconstruction and maintenance of facilities, etc."
Length of permit use period: "The resort has a 20 year term permit, not 99 years."
Water quality: "The Forest Service believes that through the careful planning that has been done the water quality in Fremont Lake will be protected. We also believe that the peace of Fremont Lake will not significantly change."
Development along Fremont lakeshore compared to Lake Tahoe: "Fremont Lake is a very different situation than Lake Tahoe. There is no private land near the lakeshore at Fremont Lake vs Lake Tahoe. Therefore anything that is developed would have to be issued a special use permit from the Forest Service. This is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future since all of the DFC 9B areas already have existing businesses and the required changes to Forest Plan and subsequent project level environmental analysis and public involvement would be unlikely to be approved. Also, approximately 50-60% of the lakeshore is not developable due to topography."
Development on public vs private land: "Since there is no private land along the shoreline, it is difficult to provide marina and boat slips that many of the public desires. Some of the facilities could be provided away from the lake, but would not provide the same recreation experience that people come there to enjoy, would increase management and maintenance costs, and would not function as well due to the separation of facilities. In addition, this is an established use on this site that coincides with DFC 9B direction set forth in the Forest Plan."
Camping as a use: "Overnight camping is an appropriate use of National Forest land whether it is provided by private enterprise under special use permit or is provided by the Forest Service."
Competition to other local businesses: "The proposed development would represent some, not substantial, competition to existing businesses. However there is an identified shortage of overnight accommodations in Pinedale."
Public access to lakeshore: "The south shore of Fremont Lake is a very small percentage of the total lakeshore and the decision actually reduces the amount of lakeshore within the permit area. There is also a public boat launch and parking area and the public swimming beach on the south shore of Fremont Lake as well as the remaining 95% of the lakeshore that is open to the public. In addition access to the public along the shoreline inside the permit area is unrestricted with the exception of the boat dock and restaurant deck."
Increased use of Fremont Lake: "Fremont Lake is a popular recreational lake and this is not likely to change over time. The Forest Service does intend to pursue watershed protection through Forest Plan Revision, while also protecting the scenic, wildlife and recreational opportunities at Fremont Lake."
Lake Water Quality: "The water in Fremont Lake has been sampled since 1996 by the Town of Pinedale, as part of the agreement with the EPA. The water quality has not declined during that period. The water sampling program will be continued into the future. If more facilities are added, the potential for problems increases, however with better designed and maintained facilities, that potential is reduced."
Septic Systems: "All septic systems will contain adequate design and alarm systems to insure water quality and all drain fields will be located near Fremont Lake Road approximately 600 feet away from the lake shore."
Guest pets: "The lodge will be required to control guest’s pets and clean up after them. If they do not comply then action can be taken against the special use permit."
Cultural Resources: "A Cultural Resource Survey has been completed for the entire existing and proposed permit area. The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office has issued concurrence with the report. The Selected Alternative with modifications removes those areas with known Cultural Resources from the permit area."
Dumping boat holding tanks/increased boat usage on Fremont Lake: "Certainly there are unthinking people that dump their holding tanks directly in the lake. It happens occasionally now and will probably happen in the future. Also, since many of the people on the waiting list for slips are local residents, they are already using the lake, so doubling the slip capacity does not necessarily translate to a doubling of boats on the lake."
Increased use on Fremont Lake: "The use at Lakeside is only a small percentage of the total use on Fremont Lake. Doubling the capacity at the resort will not create a problem of overuse."
Increased development of public lands: "The Forest Service mission is primarily conservation, a part of which is preservation of resource values on public lands, another part is to provide for use of National Forest land while protecting the land. Therefore, the mission is broader than just providing for preservation of natural conditions."
Increased boat use on the lake: "There will be a wide spectrum of boaters that will use Lakeside’s facilities ranging from canoes to large motorboats, all with a legitimate right to use the lake."
Increased traffic on roads: "There will be an increase in traffic from the expansion, however when compared to the overall traffic in and around Pinedale, the increase will not be significant."
Resort ownership requirements: "Since the land is managed by the US Forest Service, the ownership of resorts is not restricted to local residents. This Resort is corporate owned, and one of the owners is the manager and is a resident of Pinedale."
Sandy Beach: "Sandy Beach is not included within the Special Use Permit boundary in any of the alternatives. Special care was taken to shift the expansion away from Sandy Beach in the Selected Alternative."
Oil/gas spills by increased boat usage: "By increasing the number of boats, the chances of gas/oil spills is greater, however several factors need to be mentioned. The owners have completely re-built the boat gasoline facility to meet State DEQ requirements, most of the people that are on the waiting list for boat slips are local people using the lake already so use will not increase in a linear fashion, there have been no known significant oil/gas spills even with previous owners, and the owners are required to contain oil/gas spills as part of the DEQ permit."
Shoreline erosion due to more boats: "There is little shore erosion now from boats and there will not be a significant increase with the increase in number of boats. Most of the shore erosion now is caused by wave action from wind rather than boats."
Winter use impacts: "The effect of operating outside of the current operating period is not significant compared to total use of the Lake and surrounding area. Since Lakeside Lodge does not plan to rent snowmobiles or promote snowmobiling the expansion of the operating season is not expected to effect the number of skiers or snowmobiles on the lake in the winter."
Selling of Lakeside Resort: "The owners of Lakeside have not indicated any desire to sell the business and their motivation has been all along to improve the business and public services offered."
Possible conflict of interest on the EA: "Regarding questions of whether or not Bob Reese should have been allowed to work for the owners of Lakeside Lodge this was documented in the Half Moon project. When Bob was hired by the resorts, it was reviewed at the Supervisors Office level and elevated to the Regional Office for an opinion. There has never been any indication that this was found to be a conflict. Regarding Bob's relationship with the permittee prior to retiring from the Forest Service, he was not the responsible official for this permit, it is a Forest Supervisors level permit."
Road use fee: "There are many users of roads in the Fremont Lake area. If we assess a fee for road maintenance, then it seems reasonable to charge a fee to all the users of the roads, which is not planned at least in the near future."
Editor’s Note: The comments below are from William Emmett, now retired Hydrologist from the US Geological Survey. His comments were not received in the window of time to be included with the public comment record for the Lakeside Lodge Master Development Plan. However, he has submitted official input to the Forest Service on earlier occasions and afterward. I feel his comments are extremely relevant because Mr. Emmett, along with Luna Leopold, have over 30 years professional experience studying and document water quality issues specifically related to Fremont Lake. Both are highly respected in the hydrology profession and extensively published on water quality issues. Both own summer homes on the lake. Their combined knowledge of Fremont Lake is extensive and backed by years of scientific study, monitoring and hydrologic experience specific to this area and geology. For that reason, I am including his August 1, 2004 letter to the Forest Service regarding the Lakeside Lodge MDP EA as well as a PDF copy of his February 20, 2001 letter to the Pinedale Ranger District discussing his concerns about Fremont Lake water quality not included in the public record of the Lakeside EA. His comments are reprinted with his permission.
William Emmett letter to Pinedale Ranger District regarding Fremont Lake water quality, Feb. 20, 2001
From: William Emmett, Ph.D.
To: Craig Truluck, Cindy Stein, Kniffy Hamilton, Wes Smith
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 2004
Subject: Environmental Assessment for Lakeside Lodge's Master Development Plan
You may recall that in February 2001, I wrote a letter to the Pinedale District Ranger regarding scientific concerns on the proposed expansion of Lakeside Lodge; copy of that letter is attached to the present email. The gist of that letter was that the proposed increase in human activity that close to the chemically dilute waters of Fremont Lake would have an unavoidable negative impact to the water quality. Subsequently, that (now-ex) District Ranger became the contractor to prepare the Environmental Assessment so it is not surprising that my concerns were totally ignored. A small example of how seemingly negligible human impact may affect water quality comes from past experience: for a number of years, I provided sampling apparatus and boat transportation as the County Sanitarian, Dr. Bert Reinow, and I collected samples from Fremont Lake for coliform analyses. Generally, samples were negative; example positive samples came offshore from picnic wrappers at Box Bay, in the dock area at Beaver Bay, offshore from a now-removed outhouse near the southeast corner of the lake, and adjacent to a smaller Lakeside Lodge. These concerns are now critical for Fremont Lake is Pinedale's source of drinking water and a rigorous Watershed Protection Plan is in effect to allow a variance for nonfiltration of surface water.
On several occasions in the past couple of years I stopped by the offices of the Pindale Ranger District to offer my services in assessing the impact of the proposed development on Fremont Lake. I was never asked to assist in that effort. The shortcomings in the Environmental Assessment are flagrant. Mitigation measures 1-3 to obtain approvals and permits, and to distribute copies of such, will not stop degradation of water quality. Monitoring requirements 1-2 will do nothing to assure maintenance of drinking water standards or to maintain the variance for Pinedale to avoid filtration. The latter only lets the developer know when to say: "I'm sorry."
The only viable option is Alternative 1 for no action. Even with Alternative 1, it is imperative to update the Forest Plan for greater recognition of the exceptional qualities of Fremont Lake, that Fremont Lake is the source of Pinedale's drinking water, that a vigorous Watershed Protection Plan is in place for Pinedale to maintain a variance for no filtration, and that the U.S. Forest Service is a key member in assuring that the Watershed Protection Plan is being maintained.
William W. Emmett, Ph.D.
U.S. Geological Survey (ret)