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DNCR announces Sunapee lease transfer and amendments

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The state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park recently took another significant turn.

Commissioner Sarah Stewart of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) consented to a lease transfer request that allows industry giant Vail Resorts to take over the lease and operations of the Mount Sunapee ski area.

Proposed lease amendments accompanied the announcement and will go to the Governor and the Executive Council this month.

The commissioner delivered the decision at a public meeting at the park on September 26. View the meeting and lease amendment discussion via Newport Community TV Online.

DNCR proposed lease revisions to:

  1. Extend to Vail Resorts the 2016 lease amendment that enables resort development of the West Bowl.
  2. Add a “change in control provision.”
  3. Reference an advisory commission.

Read more…

 

 

Cardigan Highlanders trail work on Mt. Sunapee set for Sat., Oct. 6

The Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew (CHVTC) will be on Mount Sunapee this weekend and welcomes help with the trail work at hand.

On Saturday, October 6, the trail crew will meet at Mount Sunapee State Park, ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain, and then descend the Summit Trail to work on drainage dips.

“We hope and expect to stop when we reach the fixtures we built in our earlier five days of work there this season, then hike downhill to our cars and refreshments,” said crew leader Craig Sanborn.

The Summit Trail is a popular public hiking trail on Mount Sunapee. This job is necessary for the health of the trail, explained Sanborn. Other trail work will continue on Sunday or Monday on the Newbury Trail.

On Friday, the trail crew will be on Mount Kearsarge, the Rollins Trail.

The gear needed: leather boots, long pants, and BYO work gloves or gloves will be provided. Food, water, and supplies for all day in the forecasted weather, dry and 50s.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Craig Sanborn, email: crgsnbrn@yahoo.com.

The Cardigan Highlanders is a non-profit organization recruiting new trail workers and support. It has been doing trail work on Mount Sunapee and Mount Cardigan since 1985. See the Cardigan Highlanders website.

DNCR to announce Mount Sunapee lease decision at Sept. 26 meeting

Special Alert: Mount Sunapee State Park Public Information Session – Wednesday, September 26 (6 pm) at Mount Sunapee State Park (Sunapee Lodge), Route 103, Newbury, N.H.

New Hampshire DNCR Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) will announce her decision on the Mount Sunapee ski area lease assignment to Vail Resorts at a public meeting on Wed., Sept. 26, 2018.

We encourage the public to attend this important meeting. There will be an opportunity for public comment and questions.

Per the DNCR release: “The Department has received a request to consent to the assignment of the lease to The Sunapee Difference, LLC, which will be indirectly owned by VR NE Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. (“Vail”). After careful consideration of public comments and working with the Attorney General’s Office, Commissioner Sarah Stewart will release the decision on the proposed transfer and details related to the decision.”

DNCR will post the decision and related documents on its website after announcing its decision on September 26.

NH State Parks posted on Monday additional materials about the potential lease assignment. We’ve added these documents to FOMS website:

Background
In June 2018, Vail Resorts announced that it was seeking to acquire the ski area lease and operations at Mount Sunapee.

The September 26 meeting will be the second information session in two months on the Triple Peaks sale to Vail Resorts. On July 25, Commissioner Stewart and N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald hosted a session that included remarks by Tim and Diane Mueller (current operator/Triple Peaks), a presentation by Vail representatives, and public comment.

View the July 2018 Mount Sunapee State Park information session via Newport Community TV.

FOMS advocates for diligent and transparent management of the state-owned ski area. We seek public policy and process decisions that restore public trust and honor the original intent of leasing a significant portion of our iconic state park to a private operator.

“New Hampshire citizens look to the State to exercise vigorous oversight and defend the public trust, no matter the operator or leaseholder at Mount Sunapee State Park. We also look to lessees at the park for leadership and operational and development plans that reflect local concerns and interests and respect our state park’s public values and the RSAs that protect our parks and natural heritage.” – Friends of Mount Sunapee, at the July 25 Mount Sunapee State Park Information Session.

FOMS Mount Sunapee submitted comments called for:

  • A “public hearing” to review the lease transfer request
  • Immediate formation of an Oversight and Administration Commission to manage the lease
  • An independent financial and operational audit of lessees to ensure lease compliance
  • Protection of the 484-acre exemplary forest within the State Park
  • Permanent protection of Mount Sunapee’s western slopes from resort development, land conservation that respects the original leasehold area.
  • Compliance with signage and advertising requirements to indicate state (public) ownership of the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.

See FOMS comments, August 6, 2018.

See Vail’s June 4, 2018, announcement.

Join us on Wed., Sept. 26 at Mount Sunapee State Park
The upcoming public info session will help give insight into the potential changes coming to the ski area and Mount Sunapee State Park and possible future impacts to our local communities and region.

Birds of Wendell Marsh South slideshow and hike on Aug. 30

Birds of Wendell Marsh South, a slideshow and hike led by Steve Hale of Open Word Explorers, will be held on Thursday, August 30, in Sunapee. The presentation starts at 5:30 pm at the Abbott Library. A hike of Wendell Marsh South follows at 7:00 pm. The program sponsors are the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust and Abbott Library. For sign up information, visit Abbott Library. RSVP by August 28.

Land protection: Wendell Marsh in Sunapee

The protection of the Wendell Marsh area in Sunapee has been a focus of the conservation efforts for many years. Earlier this summer (June 2018), the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust announced that 40 acres of undeveloped land, which includes a significant portion of the marsh habitat, had been preserved.

NH Fish and Game began the conservation efforts in this area in the 1960’s. They protected the 10-acre Wendell Marsh Wildlife Area, identified as a high priority for conservation by the Town of Sunapee due to its pristine wetland habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, and other wildlife, as well as for water quality protection.

In 2013 Ausbon Sargent partnered with the Town of Sunapee’s Conservation Commission to protect 136 acres (Wendell Marsh North) followed, in 2015, with an additional 143 acres (Wendell Marsh South.) Read more…

 

FOMS comments on Mount Sunapee lease change

Mount Sunapee Comments are due today, by 4 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018, to DNCR on the lease change proposal at Mount Sunapee State Park. Email: MountSunapeeComments@dncr.nh.gov

The Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources received from Friends of Mount Sunapee comments that include a call for:

  • A Public Hearing
  • An Oversight and Administration Commission to manage the ski area lease
  • Permanent protection of Mount Sunapee’s natural heritage and western slopes from resort development, land conservation that respects the intent of the original lease and leasehold area

Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS), following over a century of preservation efforts for the mountain, advocates for the protection of Mount Sunapee State Park’s unique natural heritage for current and future generations. We seek protection of its large forest ecosystems including ancient forests within the Exemplary Natural Community Systems (ENCS)… Read FOMS Mount Sunapee comments 2018Aug6

FOMS Summary of Positions July 10, 2018

‘The primeval forest of Mount Sunapee’

Conservation ecologist Chris Kane, on June 30, 2018, led a hike at Mount Sunapee State Park, where he shared his knowledge of the area’s rare ancient forest.

Courtesy of the Eagle Times, July 28, 2018, this article by Steve Russell, president of Friends of Mount Sunapee, reports on a recent hike with conservation ecologist Chris Kane.

“Mount Sunapee contains as much as 10 percent of all the known ancient forest in New Hampshire, and the great majority south of the White Mountains.” – Chris Kane, June 30, 2018

In a walk through time into a forest never logged or otherwise affected by human endeavors, Chris Kane, conservation ecologist, led our small group of hikers last weekend into Mount Sunapee State Park’s primeval forest. Over the course of a three-and-a-half-hour journey, we hikers heard this naturalist identify and interpret the complexity of Sunapee’s ancient forests…

So, like those who were drawn to Sunapee’s rare forests over a century ago, we emerged from the forest with a new appreciation for the uniqueness of this special part of Mount Sunapee State Park and with an understanding that these forests represent the last vestige of wilderness in this region of New Hampshire: they are what make Mount Sunapee State Park unique, and we should do everything we can to ensure that they are permanently protected.

Read more via the Eagle Times, The primeval forests of Mount Sunapee 

Or view The primeval forests of Mount Sunapee | Lifestyles | eagletimes.com (pdf)

The ancient forest on Mount Sunapee
  • For information about Mount Sunapee natural heritage and its ancient forest, see the FOMS library of documents.
  • For info about our work to protect Mount Sunapee, please contact us.

 

Sarah Stewart to be next NH DNCR commissioner

Sarah Stewart will be the next commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The agency oversees the divisions of Parks & Recreation, Forests & Lands, Historical Resources, Film & Digital Media, Libraries, and N.H. State Council on the Arts.

After a public hearing April 6 on the nomination, the Executive Council confirmed Stewart on April 11 in a unanimous vote. Stewart will replace Jeff Rose, who held the position after the re-organization of the Department and Resources and Economic Development (DRED) in 2017. Staring in 2014, before the agency breakup, Rose served as the commissioner of DRED.

Representatives of Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) attended both (April 6 and 11) council meetings on the Stewart nomination.

Mount Sunapee State Park, one of 93 state parks, is known for its unique natural heritage and outdoor recreation.

“As commissioner, I intend to spend a lot of my time out of the office, making myself available to the organizations, clubs, volunteers and local leaders who care so deeply for the parks, land, historical and cultural assets in their communities,” Stewart said. — via UnionLeader.com

FOMS action goals include:

  • To compel the state of New Hampshire to recognize that its primary responsibility is to serve as guardian of the public interest at Mount Sunapee State Park, and to deny efforts that undermine the essential conservation and public recreational values for which the park exists to provide.
  • To network with individuals and groups across the state that support the wise and thoughtful use of New Hampshire’s public parks and forested lands so as to protect their natural heritage for future generations.

Up ‘n down weather cuts into skier visits and budgets

“Navigating the weather continues to be an up-and-down elevator ride for area ski resorts, who say sudden warm weather meeting with cold has impacted their visitors — and their budgets,” reports Katy Savage in the Eagle Times (February 26, 2018).

See The Elevator Effect via https://www.eagletimes.com/articles/the-elevator-effect/

“While Presidents Day week is usually one of the busiest weeks for resorts, a 60-degree day at the start took a toll that several say they were unable to recover from,” writes Savage, who spoke to Okemo and Mount Sunapee Resort spokespeople and other ski area operators.

This local article comes as we read a new report published by Protect Our Winters, a climate advocacy nonprofit.

This analysis updates the 2012 study and furthers our understanding of how warming temperatures have impacted the industry…

The winter sports economy is important for the vitality of U.S. mountain communities. This report shows the urgency for the US to deploy solutions to reduce emissions and presents a roadmap for the winter sports industry to take a leading role in advocating for solutions. – See Protect Our Winters

See related articles:

Report shows climate change will hurt winter sports industry” via WMUR

New report finds climate change could take a $1 billion bite from winter sports” via NPR

“UNH researchers find effects climate change could accelerate mid-century” – via UNH

“Beech trees booming as climate changes, and that’s bad for N.H. forests” via Concord Monitor

How can I share timely news

To share with FOMS your news, information and images, please contact us.

Mount Sunapee advisory committee to review annual plan for ski area on May 31

“What is being planned for winter and summer programs for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park? The operator Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort will discuss its Annual Operating Plan (AOP) 2017-2018 with the state’s Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee on Wed., May 31, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. at the Newbury Town Offices, Route 103. The meeting is open to the public. The resort will discuss operations and projects planned for the coming year, according to the agenda. A hiking trail update is expected, as well.

View/download the agenda here: MSAC-Agenda5-31 (pdf 24kb)

View/download the AOP here: MSR-AOP-2017-2018 (pdf 6MB)

Read related post…

Protection of the public hiking trails at Mount Sunapee State Park, including the woodland Summit Trail, is a priority for FOMS.

In March 2016, Commissioner Rose (Department of Resources and Economic Development) agreed and said, “maintaining four season hiking on the Summit Trail is a priority. To codify this commitment, DRED, Mount Sunapee Resort and the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Coalition (SRKGC) will enter into a Cooperative Maintenance Agreement, which will protect and maintain the designated trails within the leased boundary. In addition to protecting and maintaining the safety and stewardship of the trails, Mount Sunapee Resort will provide annual spring maintenance on the Summit Trail.”

As of this posting, DRED has not provided FOMS a status report on the Cooperative Maintenance Agreement. FOMS volunteers continue to follow up with DRED, and we’ll post the agreement when made available.

 

Copyright 2018 Friends of Mount Sunapee