COUGAR, Wash. -- Virtually all the businesses in the hamlet nestled within the shadow of Mount St. Helens are suing the state, charging the governor's restricted 'red zone' unjustly deprived them of profits by keeping customers away.
Operators of two grocery stores, a restaurant, a service station, a welding and machine shop and a motel-resort, along with the owners of the nearby Ariel store and tavern will join in the suit against Washington state, community spokesmen said Wednesday.
Ariel was briefly inside the restricted red zone established by Gov. Dixy Lee Ray's executive order when the volcano began erupting last spring. Cougar has been restricted, with few exceptions, to virtually everyone but residents since the May 18 eruption.
Although the governor ordered the red zone status lifted at about the same time plans for the suit were announced, Mrs. Marilyn Platt, a co-partner in the Lone Fir Resort-motel, said the action would proceed.
'We are bringing suit against the state,' she said. 'We've lost all of our business for at least a year.'
Cougar's main business income is from tourist deer hunters, she said. The tourist season normally runs from spring through mid-September and the deer hunt is from mid-October until late November, she said. But the hunting zones around Cougar remain closed by the governor's order and the tourist season is through until next spring.
Dot Elmire, operator of the Cougar Store, agreed that the suit should proceed, calling it 'an act of protest.'
'We just feel that we have been given a raw deal by being behind this roadblock for such a long time and that we should have some compensation for our losses,' Ms. Elmire said.
Earl Barkus of the Lone Fir, said, 'I don't think any of us really like to get involved in anything like this but I feel what we have to do something.'
Details of the suit and how much compensation will be south has been left up to an attorney, they said.