Skamania County enacts moratorium on recreational facilities developments

Decision follows vocal opposition to proposed ‘adventure park’ in rural West End neighborhood

timestamp icon
category icon Latest News, News
Camas resident Roman Battan (left) gives "Adventure Park Not Welcome" yard signs to a rural Washougal resident at the Riverside Bowl Skatepark in Camas, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (Photos by Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Skamania County has enacted a moratorium on recreational facilities development in response to concerns about a project that endeavors to bring an adventure park to the county’s West End.

County commissioners Richard Mahar, Tom Lannen and Asa Leckie voted unanimously for the moratorium during a meeting held Oct. 24, after several West End residents asked the County to review and modify its definitions of “recreational facilities” and “recreational activities” in its zoning code.

West End resident George Perry told The Post-Record his advocacy group considers the moratorium a win, and said, “The County’s planning and community development departments now have the opportunity to make sure the language is tight so it’s not misinterpreted.”

Property developer Derek Hoyte has launched an effort to construct an adventure park featuring a “mountain coaster,” zip line course, net park and event venue, on a 150-acre plot of land located at 4101 Canyon Creek Road, which he purchased in 2022.

In August, Marty Snell, a planning services manager for Mackay Sposito, a Vancouver-based consulting firm Hoyte hired to oversee the project, sent an invitation to West End residents living within 500 feet of Hoyte’s property, inviting them to an “informational meeting” that was to be held Tuesday, Aug. 15, at the Laurel Lane Event and Retreat Center in rural Washougal. The meeting was eventually canceled and not rescheduled.

“The property owner … has put together a local team of planners and architects to help implement a vision to create a recreational park inspired by the beauty, landscape and uniqueness that the upper Washougal River valley offers,” the invitation states. “The owner’s vision would strike a balance of providing experiences ranging from excitement to tranquility and from recharging to relaxation, all while being sensitive to the surrounding area.

“The proposed park activities would be designed to provide captivating experiences for visitors to take in as actively or as passively as they wish. Placement of activities and structures will be integrated with the existing forest to provide a nature-focused experience. … (The park will) be ever-mindful of respecting the surrounding area.”

West End residents aren’t buying those claims. They say that the park would present the area with a litany of problems in the categories of traffic, quality of life, environment, wildlife, economics and emergency services.

“People from all thought spectrums (up here) are like, ‘This is wrong,’” Perry said, “which is very telling about how off base this proposal really is.”

Hoyte started work on the project “several months ago,” West End resident Mike Duzan told the Post-Record in September, but was issued stop-work orders by Skamania County in August and the Washington State Department of Resources in October, according to West End resident Sarah Perry.

Skamania County had not received an application from Hoyte for the project before enacting the moratorium, which will last at least six months.

“I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt I did not envision what .. well, it hasn’t actually been proposed yet, but what’s kind of out there,” Mahar said during the County meeting. “This is difficult for me because whenever I see that language ‘such as’ or ‘but not limited to,’ I always kind of cringe because I know you can never really box everything in, so I don’t know. I think doing a moratorium is really wise because I didn’t see this (type of project coming), and I think the planning commission can work on helping with that language. I don’t know what the perfect language is, but I also see pretty clearly that what (we) intended and what’s out there now doesn’t seem to be compatible at all.”

Skamania County currently defines “outdoor recreational facility” as a facility provided for outdoor recreation encompassing a varying range of activities pursued for purposes such as “physical exercise, general wellbeing, spiritual renewal and education.”

Such activities include, but are not limited to, camping, hiking, skiing, fishing, hunting, shooting, backpacking, picnicking, wildlife and botanical viewing, horseback riding, swimming, rock climbing, cycling, windsurfing, rafting, sailing, and outdoor team sports such as soccer, baseball, tennis, and basketball, according to Skamania County code No. 21.08.10.

“Mr. Hoyte saw an opportunity to exploit some vagueness in the way the zoning law was written, in particular the ordinances the County passed in 2021 which had some sort of etcetera terminology, but still explicitly listed a lot of things that were nowhere near similar to ziplining,” George Perry said. “Most of them are physical activities, not being taken up a hill in a van and (going back) down. We need to make sure people don’t misinterpret what the intent of those zoning changes and what the intent of outdoor recreation really was.”

The park has generated strong pushback on social media, with a Facebook group titled “Preserve the Washougal River Rd area — STOP the amusement park” drawing more than 1,000 members as of earlier this month.

But Camas residents Rich Rogers and Roman Battan are attempting to move the discourse offline and bring the varying sub-groups together in order to present a more united front.

“It’s great to have all these separate voices, but there’s more power with one group,” Rogers said. “Right now, who’s (Hoyte) going to talk to? He has that great excuse. He could tell Skamania County, ‘I tried talking to the neighbors, but there’s 19 groups. I’m not going to 19 meetings.’ I’m trying to tell all these folks, ‘Let’s get together — one face, one hand out — and organize and keep asking questions.’”

Rogers and Battan collected donations from residents to print yard signs, adorned with the words “Adventure Park Not Welcome,” which they gave to people on Monday, Oct. 23, from the Camas Skatepark parking lot.

“I got on one of the (social media) groups, and ‘I said, ‘Let’s do something tangible and get something out there so that when the construction workers and the project managers drive up to the site, they see that there’s a pretty big wall of opposition on their way.’ The goal is to get these (signs) on Washougal River Road so that that happens,” Battan said. “We have groups that are complaining on Facebook and social media, but you have to do something real. This at least gives people a chance to voice their opinion. Who knows what’s going to happen with the decision, but at least we can let people know we’re opposed to (the project).”

George Perry and Sarah Perry, along with fellow West End residents Mary Grode and Keith Brown, formed Preserving Washougal and West End Rural Character (PWWERC), a nonprofit organization that endeavors to educate and advocate for the preservation of the Washougal watershed, as well as raise funds for legal and outreach costs, earlier this year.

The four PWWERC board members say they are not necessarily trying to stop the adventure park project altogether, but rather they want to make sure that it fully complies with the West End Comprehensive Community Sub-Area Plan (WECCSP), which was created by more than 250 West End residents from 2001 to 2004 and adopted by Skamania County in 2007.

The plan states that “West Skamania County will continue to be a predominantly rural environment with large open tracts of field and forest lands, with residential and limited small scale commercial development.”

“We want to educate the public about the strong comprehensive plan (that has) guided development and worked and protected peace and tranquility,” Brown said. “That is the thing that the community came together on and protected the community. The three years (of development) were contentious. We had a lot of differences, as you do in any community, so there were a lot of spirited discussions about what should and what should not be allowed. In that process, the community agreed on a mission, a vision, and 10 goals to guide development.”

The second goal states that “new community commercial and neighborhood commercial land uses, as well as cottage occupations, light home industries, and professional services, may be consistent with the rural residential character of the West End community if only allowed subject to conditions that will alleviate adverse impacts to environmental, public safety and aesthetic values. … such as privacy, noise levels and visual issues.”

West End residents feel that Hoyte’s project clearly conflicts with that goal.

“(The plan is) our roadmap,” Sarah Perry said. “If (Hoyte) is operating within the confines of the law and regulations and the comprehensive plan, and building something that’s respectful of the community, more power to him.”

Robbins and Brown’s advocacy efforts date back to 2005, when they, along with nine others, successfully appealed the Skamania County commission’s decision to rezone 94 acres in the West End from residential to commercial use without notifying the public or allowing public comment on the change.

They see some similarities between that effort and their current one.

“We should have formed this organization 20 years ago. That’s the reality,” Brown said. “We thought, ‘OK, we’ll take care of (the Five Corners development and be done with it), but no, (these issues) keep coming back up. That was part of the discussion when we came together on this — ‘It’s time to form an organization, and not just for this (project).’ The Storedahl and Sons quarry is also a threat to the community in terms of peace and tranquility, so that’s another (issue that) this organization will deal with.”

The PWWERC provides the West End with a “stable organization that is at the ready,” according to West End resident Teresa Robbins.

“We’ve discovered over the last 20 years that we have to keep starting from square one and build up (when these issues arise). If we’re ready, we’re prepared to respond,” said Robbins, a PWWERC volunteer. “When this (adventure park situation) began, people felt disempowered. They felt helpless. They were frightened. They were confused. No one knew what to do. They wanted to do something, but no one knew how to even begin. This provides a comforting touchstone, and gives them ways that they can get involved so they feel that they’re doing something, that they’re in control again.”

PWWERC board members held an informational meeting on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Canyon Creek Middle School, which drew about 125 attendees who each filled out comment cards that were delivered to Skamania County commissioners days later. They are planning to hold similar sessions in the future.

“Another thing that this organization does is it allows people around here to say, ‘Wait a second, I got notified of this, I don’t like this,’ and they can reach out to an organization that could actually potentially help them,” Sarah Perry said. “There are other fantastic nonprofits around here, like Friends of the Columbia Gorge, but they’re not necessarily in this community. Now (West End residents) have a contact that’s not a government agency which might say, ‘Well, that’s not really our jurisdiction. It’s not really our purview.’ We can actually say, ‘This is a concern, and more people are going to want to know about this,’ and we can guide them through that process.”

West End residents have also expressed concerns about Hoyte’s history with similar projects.

The developer was briefly jailed in 2009 after Skamania County officials discovered he was operating six zip lines without permits on 83 acres of land he owned in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, according to a 2010 report by The Columbian, the Post-Record’s sister publication.

In 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sued Hoyte in federal court in Tacoma, Washington, claiming the U.S. Forest Service confirmed reports that Hoyte had reinstalled zip lines on the property and was constructing a suspension bridge without permission, according to a 2010 report by The Oregonian.

In March 2022, four Haiku, Hawaii, residents sued NorthShore Zipline Company, also owned by Hoyte, alleging he “knowingly and intentionally disregard(ed) their concerns about noise, invasion of privacy and emotional distress,” according to a report by

“It would be one thing if he came back to this area and said, “OK, I’m going to go through the proper channels. I’m going to follow the regulations,’” Sarah Perry said. “But from the very first application he filed, he’s been untruthful, so clearly has no intention of doing it differently this time.”

Snell told the Post-Record on Monday, Oct. 30, “that as of early October, (Mackay Sposito) no longer work(s) for Mr. Hoyte on this project.” Hoyte didn’t respond to an email from the Post-Record before this edition’s deadline.

For more information about the PWWERC, visit