Monday, January 09, 2006

Column 66 - Nature 10 Incline 0

Nature 10, Incline 0

The storms, floods, snows, and power outages since New Year’s Eve were a reminder, that for all our big houses, four-wheel drive vehicles, etc., nature still has the upper hand. On New Year’s Eve we drove to Squaw Valley, and driving in total, almost eerie, darkness from Tahoe Vista to Alpine Meadows was a sobering experience. As we passed Gar Woods, Wolfdale’s, and other restaurants that were dark and empty on what would normally be one of their biggest nights of the year I was reminded of an old Jewsh saying, “God laughs when people make plans.”

Later, when I heard that Diamond Peak was shut down it brought home how interdependent we are. Power lines come up the hill from Carson City and over from Truckee, and with many of those inoperative, it quickly became a no-brainer choice between running ski lifts or having lights and heat. I wonder if we’ll remember that choice when, at the end of IVGID’s fiscal year, we see the financial impact of having made it. Nature 10, Incline 0.

Almost no individual in Incline depends on nature for their livelihood – we have no farms, no fishing or hunting, and those who do depend on it – gardeners, snow removal folks, etc., are a minority. Yet as residents (and in a GID that means part-owners) of the Village, we all have an interest in the profitability of the golf courses, the ski areas and the beaches. Mostly we are content to leave this in others’ hands to manage for us, but we shouldn’t forget that the vagaries of nature have a big impact not only on the quality, but also on the economics of our lives.

Related to that, there’s been a surprising amount of controversy about the issue of golf course use during the winter. Again, let’s remember that we, the residents, own the courses and derive considerable benefit from them whether we golf or not. The golf courses are a profitable operation, and those profits go to support other aspects of village life. They also attract considerable tourism (and income) to the village in the summertime. The Trustees we elected, with substantial public support, have over the past years upgraded the golf program both in terms of facilities and service, and this means you and I have a large financial stake in their financial success.

Part of this upgrade was to hire people with very impressive professional credentials to manage on our behalf. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that there is an awful lot about managing golf courses that I don’t know, and just as in the businesses I’ve owned and managed I’ve hired people to cover those areas such as finance and IT where I an not an expert, and I’ve relied on their judgment. In the golf case, we have professionals who say that, in their best judgment, some wintertime uses of the courses will be, in the long term, damaging and will cost us enough that these uses would be a losing investment. People who, as far as I know, don’t know as much as these professionals seem to think the pros are wrong. I don’t’ understand that. You don’t have to like their decisions, but those hard choices are what we pay them for.

Just one other thing. One article in this paper , rather fatuously I think, made much of the idea that there was no “scientific evidence” behind these decisions. Right. That’s where we rely on professional judgment – where science doesn’t give us clear-cut answers. Nature does what it does, and in the end we make judgment calls like closing the ski area based on what is likely to produce the greatest good for the greatest number. The golf course decisions fall into that category. Get over it and drive ten minutes to the meadows, the snow is great there.

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