Help protect Mount Sunapee State Park: Write (once again) all the decision makers.
The plan for resort expansion is unacceptable and here’s why —
Violates Public Trust
Mount Sunapee State Park is a state park, neither a private resort nor an amusement park. The first priority of the NH State Park system under RSA 216-A:1 is “To protect and preserve unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational, and natural areas of the state.” The proposed expansion violates these principles. The use of public conservation land to facilitate private development is irresponsible and creates a dangerous precedent for other public lands across the state.
Represents Bad Economic Development
The resort says they are the driver of the regional economy. Yet, after 17 years of resort management of the ski area at Mt. Sunapee State Park, area towns are saddled with a stagnant and declining job market. There is no evidence that suggests resort expansion will bring about a more livable, affordable or sustainable economy. The vast majority of the jobs created by this expansion will be low wage, seasonal and service industry jobs. The real profits from expansion would leave the state and flow into the hands of corporate investors.
Does NOT Provide Balanced Use
Private resort expansion does not provide for balanced and diverse outdoor recreational use of our state park. The expansion will severely alter and degrade the Summit Hiking Trail, which provides free recreational access to the west side of the mountain for hikers, hunters and a multitude of other uses. To maintain balance, the ski operation must remain within its existing footprint.
The plan offers no description of what the State or the resort operators envision for the new ski area beyond a five year window. Absent from the plan is any explanation as to if or how more resort development will ensure balanced use and affordable access by all. A state park study in 2010 found that more than 70% of NH residents want the state parks to provide traditional outdoor recreation opportunities: for hiking, snowshoeing, picnicking, camping, fishing and alike. This plan for the West Bowl fails to ensure the ‘traditional’ uses people want, yet enables more commercial resort development that is costly to the public and to the environment.
Violates History and Precedent
The land protection efforts on Mount Sunapee began over 100 years ago, and have continued since with a clear intent to form a large connected mosaic of conservation lands. This expansion would run counter to this conservation effort, and would fragment the 30,000 acre Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlands.
Ignores Law and Environmental Considerations
The NH Natural Heritage Bureau has documented the existence of an “exemplary forest community” directly in the path of the expansion. This forest contains very old trees, as old as 3oo+ years. Exemplary forests are protected under state law (RSA 217-A:3). The expansion would gouge a swath directly through the forest that will degrade and fragment the forest, and is clearly in violation of the law.
There has been no assessment of the environmental impact from existing and proposed new resort development at the park, including the West Bowl expansion. The environmental management plan fails to include current and complete environmental studies and relies on studies from 2004 (11 years old) provided by the resort operator.
This expansion plan enables ski sprawl on the mountain. It will allow the resort operator to retain ownership of 150 acres of “West Bowl” land until 2028 before turning it over to the state to be part of the state park. Although the resort operators remain silent on their plans for condominium development on the land they own in Goshen, language in Commissioner Rose’s draft decision allows the developers to retain the 150 acres to “meet local density requirements and other permitting and/or mitigation requirements.” This clearly addresses the resort owners interest in residential real estate development on land that will surround the new ski area and that will abut the state park.
Provides Little Gain at High Cost
Plan proposes a donation by the resort operator to the state of 260 acres, yet it fails to reveal that one of the parcels — 208 acres was already protected (in 1990) by a conservation easement funded with taxpayer dollars. The state will be accepting land that the public already paid to protect. Another 52 acres, high on the mountain’s ridge has little commercial value. Acceptance by the state of these parcels will relieve the resort owners of a property tax liability. In exchange for these gifts of land, the state will allow fragmentation an ecologically valuable and rare forest and diminish the natural environment of existing parkland.