A contingent of Mineral King Preservation Society members, National Park Service personnel, and Mineral King visitors gathered in the east Mineral King area adjacent to the Peterson cabin for what’s been an annual affair for 28 years.
The Saturday, July 19, program included remarks by Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and William Martin, Mineral King cabin owner and longtime Mineral King advocate.
Woody Smeck, who owns a cabin on land in Giant Sequoia National Monument near Camp Nelson that is similar to those in the Mineral King valley, said he understands the special relationships of folks who have cabins and the role they have played in the conservation of these Sierra forests.
Smeck said his father, a Bakersfield businessman, built their family cabin in 1950 in the Cedar Slope subdivision. The cabin, like many others built in that period, is a rustic A-frame structure with a rectangular floor plan.
The large deck, Smeck said, looks out over the Tule River watershed. Like many of his Mineral King counterparts, he is currently instructing the next generation, his daughters ages 22 and 19, about the cabin’s subtleties — how to use and care for the rustic structure.
“It’s not only about the structure and appearance of the cabin but also the personal effects that adorn the walls,” Smeck said. “On our cabin’s walls, there are my father’s hunting trophies and a 24-inch brown trout that I caught in the Kern River when I was 13 years old.”
Smeck said he gets emotional when he thinks of his father, who passed away a decade ago, and the times his family has spent at the cabin.
“These Mineral King cabins are situated in a cathedral of beauty,” Smeck said. “We’re [NPS] entering into a new era of relationship with you [Mineral King community], and I am going to do everything I can to preserve the stories, the memories, and the Mineral King cabin community.”
William Martin’s remarks were focused on a chronology of events that led to arrival at this new era of cooperation and how Mineral King became a part of Sequoia National Park in 1978. As early as 1948, Martin said, a Sierra Club survey of potential Sierra ski sites named Mineral King (then under the jurisdiction of Sequoia National Forest) “…the most spectacular for commercial development.”
Gene Powert (1929-2013), who moved to Three Rivers in the 1990s, said that working on the Mineral King ski survey ca. 1949 was how he first became acquainted with Three Rivers. Gene, a partner in a Los Angeles ski shop business, was a lifelong promoter and advocate of skiing in the Sierra.
Martin said there wasn’t much movement on Mineral King development until 1965 when several proposals were submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. At first, the Sierra Club was supportive, he said, but after the Disney Company was awarded the permit to build a Mineral King ski development the Sierra Club changed their position and filed a historic lawsuit in opposition.
This opposition and effective lobbying in Washington, D.C., Martin said, resulted in the inclusion of the Mineral King area into Sequoia National Park in 1978. That legislation stated that at least for the next 25 years the Mineral King cabins, as long as the leaseholder of record was still alive, could continue to coexist under the administration of the National Park Service.
In 2004, new legislation was passed that allowed the Mineral King cabin community to be preserved under its newly designated (2003) status as part of the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District.
Martin, from a Tulare County farming family, and a cabin owner and preservationist for more than 50 years, said folks from all walks of life have been a part of the Mineral King movement.
There were conservatives, liberals, Republicans and Democrats, people who lived many places and of various religions and they have all been united by one cause, Martin said, “the preservation of this special place called Mineral King.”