By Marsha Kennedy

Idyllwild Snow Group

A couple months ago, the Snow Group conducted a straw poll among about a third of Idyllwild businesses regarding the effects of snow-play visitors. Almost 90 percent of those we spoke with said their experiences were negative, that this particular kind of tourist creates challenges while contributing little or nothing to the local economy. The Snow Group wondered if our merchants might have arrived at any solutions to snow-play visitor issues, or if we might have any solutions to offer them. We scheduled a meeting at the library on May 23 and invited about 60 businesses to attend.

Only eight people showed up, representing five businesses. A snack shop had increased sales, but due to food sales was prohibited from allowing use of their restroom and so sent people to The Fort’s. Any trash outside their shop was picked up by an employee.

A lodge reported increased bookings and increased trespassers in search of sledding slopes. A plant nursery’s location reduced problems, and so they only encountered snow visitor requests for restrooms, water and tools.

An inn had increased bookings along with illegal parking and traffic congestion issues. A realtor welcomed tourists to parking and restrooms, and received polite behavior and thank yous, an attitude in contrast to that of several other realtors who had spoken of the negative impact of the snow-play surge.

Can the Snow Group reduce the stress caused by snow-play visitors on our merchants?  Based on the low turnout, we conclude there is currently not enough support for further action on our part. Although the Transient Occupancy Tax was mentioned by a business owner and discussed among the attendees, the Snow Group does not plan to further investigate those funds.

We realize also that the type of distress experienced by residents and by businesses differs. Snow-play visitors in residential areas trespass in private yards, park illegally, occasionally damage property or threaten residents, and hinder emergency response. These are law-breaking issues that can be addressed.

On the other hand, the problems experienced by merchants, with the exception of shoplifting, tend to be annoyances — the demand for restrooms, littering, traffic congestion and so on — rather than law-enforcement matters. Perhaps the immediate answer for local merchants lies in the comment of the realtor who attended our meeting, “Idyllwilders adapt.”

By the end of the meeting, however, some suggestions for residential areas had also been discussed. More about those next week. To find out more about the Snow Group, please visit our web site or our Facebook page Idy Snow Talk.