A Skamania County property owner who earlier this year proposed building an adventure park on his 150-acre site, says he is rethinking the project after receiving criticism from West End neighbors.
“We had some ideas that we were exploring last summer, but we’ve done a complete reset … and there is no solid proposal for anything at this point in time,” Derek Hoyte told The Post-Record from the site of his zipline company in Maui, Hawaii, Nov 3. “All of it is in draft mode. We have obviously received a lot of feedback, which has impacted any potential plans that we were considering and put them in a different light.”
Hoyte said he purchased the 150-acre plot of land located at 4101 Canyon Creek Road in 2022, as an investment property, but also as a potential home site.
“If we do move forward with anything, I would want to do it in cooperation with the neighbors and their concerns,” Hoyte said. “I want everybody to consider me as a good neighbor and to realize that I do care.”
In August, Marty Snell, a planning services manager for MacKay Sposito, a Vancouver consulting firm Hoyte hired to oversee the project, invited West End residents living within 500 feet of Hoyte’s property to an “informational meeting,” to be held Aug. 15, at the Laurel Lane Event and Retreat Center in rural Washougal.
At the meeting, Hoyte was set to talk about his idea to construct an adventure park, which would include a “mountain coaster” and zipline, as well as an event venue, on the property, and receive feedback.
The invitation stated “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.” and that the park would be “ever-mindful of respecting the surrounding area.”
After a significant number of neighbors signaled their interest in attending the meeting, Hoyte’s representatives canceled the meeting, “when it became clear that the facility reserved for the meeting simply couldn’t accommodate the number of people who responded and wanted to attend,” Hoyte said.
West End residents immediately voiced their concerns about Hoyte’s plans on social media, claiming that the park would present a slew of problems and negatively impact traffic, quality of life, the environment, wildlife, local economy and emergency services.
“Every one of those concerns is extremely valid and worthy of concern,” Hoyte said. “I share all those concerns. I’ve been a longtime Washougal resident. I am not interested in being somebody that negatively impacts anybody’s quality of life. My goal, in not just this venture but in any venture I might take on, is to improve people’s opportunities to enjoy life. I take all these concerns extremely seriously, and I actually appreciate (them). I realize there’s been a lot of emotion around all of this, and I want to acknowledge that.”
In late October, Skamania County enacted a moratorium on recreational facilities development, after several West End residents asked the County to review and modify its definitions of “recreational facilities” and “recreational activities” in its zoning code.
Hoyte said the moratorium is “probably a good thing.”
“I did, in fact, meet with many kinds of officials very early on in this process — I think it might have been before I even bought the property — to discuss some ideas with them about what could or couldn’t be allowed, or might be allowed, and they were very encouraging,” Hoyte said. “So, I look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Skamania County.”
Several West End residents told The Post-Record that Hoyte worked on his property illegally for several months until he was hit with stop-work orders by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in October.
Hoyte said the work he was doing fell under the scope of a forest-practice permit he obtained “about a year ago.”
“There are no buildings on the property,” Hoyte explained. “We do have a shipping container parked there, but that’s just for tools and stuff. I’m actually working on some home plan designs now. We got a septic approval maybe a year or so ago, and I have drilled a couple of wells on the property, but beyond that, nothing else is in the works.”
Hoyte said he is willing to speak with concerned neighbors, but feels there is no need to do so right now..
“There is no proposal at this point, so there’s really nothing to engage about,” Hoyte explained. “I’m looking at building a single-family house and a shop, and maybe a barn, too. I don’t think that it would be worthwhile or productive to engage with anybody about my house plans.”
As for future plans for the property beyond building a home, Hoyte said: “I don’t know at this point.”
Members of Preserving Washougal and West End Rural Character (PWWERC), a nonprofit established earlier this year to educate and advocate for the preservation of the Washougal watershed, as well as to raise funds for legal and outreach costs, told The Post–Record they do not believe Hoyte’s claims that he’s backing away from the project, and said they still have concerns.
“Had this community been unsuccessful in activating Department of Natural Resources and Department of Ecology, leading to the Skamania County ‘cease and desist’ order, and now the moratorium for recreational facilities, which in combination managed to delay his ability to submit an application for a permit for the adventure park, he likely would have one in place,” PWWERC’s president Mary Grode, director George Perry, treasurer Keith Brown and secretary Sarah Perry, said in a joint statement.
The PWWERC members worry about Hoyte’s history with similar projects.
Hoyte was briefly jailed in 2009, after Skamania County officials discovered he was operating six ziplines 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 ziplines 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 Hoyte’s NorthShore Zipline Company, alleging he “knowingly and intentionally disregard(ed) their concerns about noise, invasion of privacy and emotional distress,” according to a report by mauinews.com.
“(We) wonder how Mr. Hoyte defines ‘good neighbor,’” the PWWERC board stated. “Actions speak louder than words, and his past and most recent actions, such as running bulldozing equipment at night and into the wee hours of the morning, have been documented, and unfortunately do not depict behaviors of a good neighbor. The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Hoyte’s actions in Maui and in the Columbia Gorge, which resulted in lawsuits, as well as actions in Washougal do not evidence those of a considerate neighbor.”