Editors Note: This article was originally published on 7/5/22 in The Wenatchee World and is written by Libby Williams. 

At 3,835 feet, the Chelan Butte creates a backdrop for the city of Chelan. Besides some trails, the land is largely undeveloped. That’s how Chelan Basin Conservancy board members would like it to stay.

Chelan Butte looms above Wapato Point across Lake Chelan in 2004. Photo by Don Seabrook.

Conservancy president Brian Patterson said the board started a petition to gain support for the public acquisition of 900 acres of the Chelan Butte to avoid overcrowding due to tourist-related development.

Patterson wrote an article on the conservancy’s website, “Preserve the Chelan Butte,” explaining the purpose of the petition and why the Butte should be protected.

“A 900-acre portion right in the middle of the Chelan Butte belongs to a single owner (Golden Gate Ventures),” Patterson wrote. “If developed, the addition of up to 800 vacation rental homes will further increase home prices, overwhelm lake access and use and clog our streets with traffic.”

Patterson said that the petition, which had 1,565 signatures as of July 1, could be used to prove support to the city of Chelan, Chelan County, the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land and members of the public. Their goal is 2,000 signatures.

The petition is a rekindling of efforts by former Chelan Mayor Mike Cooney.

“He had coordinated support from the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land and the city of Chelan” Patterson said in an email. “However, he was not re-elected in November 2019, so he ran out of time for the actual fundraising for the project… the project died and it had no advocate after that.”

Patterson said the conservancy agreed to revisit the Butte project earlier this year. At the time, an interested party had placed an option to buy the 900 acres, so the conservancy didn’t put in too much effort.

“In early June, the option expired,” Patterson wrote. “The interested party is still pursing possible development, but has yet to put money down on the properties. So we are moving forward as expeditiously as possible.”

Patterson said that while the conservancy has existed for about 10 years, it’s recently undergone board turnover and a change in goals.

C.J. Sturtevant, North Bend, gets her paraglider up in the wind taking off from the southeast part of the top of Chelan Butte in 2003 before sailing away and landing at Lakeside Park at Lake Chelan. The top of the butte is a popular gliding takeoff point. Photo by Don Seabrook.

The conservancy “could serve a valuable purpose in the Lake Chelan Valley and set about rebuilding it” and rebranding it “as a more broad-based nonprofit concerned with environmental impacts to Lake Chelan.” Patterson wrote.

Patterson said the Chelan community has demonstrated increasing support for keeping the Chelan Butte untouched.

“It is a natural landmark that is visible throughout the city and from Lake Chelan,” Patterson wrote. “The entire area would look and feel different if it were to be developed.”

Editors Note: If you are interested in signing the petition click here.

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