by: Graham Johnson Updated:
Granite Falls, Wash. - The U.S. Forest Service is delaying the opening of a popular campground because of the landslide danger. The hillside above Gold Basin Campground is strikingly similar to the one above Oso, where a slide killed more than 40 people.
Like the Steelhead Haven slide in Oso, scientists have studied the Gold Basin slide for years, but have mostly focused on the impact to the Stillaguamish River below. The Forest Service says it will hire an expert to assess the risk the 200-acre landslide poses to the campground, which can attract hundreds of people on summer weekends.
"We have closed it indefinitely," said District Ranger Peter Forbes. "Until we have some sort of answer, that's the way it's going to stay."
Forbes said the Oso disaster led the agency to look closer at the danger.
"The risk is still the same. What we know about risk and how we assess risk has changed," Forbes said.
The campground is the most popular along the scenic Mountain Loop Highway. Down the road in Verlot, Jerry Birkland, of Green Gables Resort and Mountain Loop Market and Deli, called selling supplies to summer campers his bread and butter. But after Oso, he said safety should come first.
"We don't want that to happen here," Birkland said.
The Forest Service said it plans to hire an expert to assess the landslide as quickly as possible, but it is unlikely that work will be done in time to open the campground for the summer season. Depending on the outcome of the review, the campground could be reopened, closed permanently, or moved. The Forest Service has considered moving the campground in the past, but rangers said they don't know where it would go.