By Gary Stansfield
Friends of Mount Sunapee is extremely disappointed with DRED Commissioner Rose’s decision to approve the expansion of the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.
The plan is cynical, short sighted and designed to trigger a cascade of unintended consequences.
Commissioner Rose disingenuously boasts that the plan will yield “environmental benefits”. In reality, it makes a mockery of DRED’s own Natural Heritage Bureau and state environmental law. The revised plan still allows the developer to carve a new lift line through the heart of a legally protected “Exemplary Natural Community” and new ski runs around its perimeter.
This effectively creates a shattered island of forest. Forest ecologists call this fragmentation, and its negative effects on forest health are well documented. The Natural Heritage Bureau closed their 2015 report on this forest with the following statement: “Large, intact systems are more resistant to impacts from natural disturbance, insects and disease, and human disturbance.”
The plan also brags about the so-called “gifts” of land that the state will receive through this scheme. The largest parcel in question, a 202 acre forest block, is already protected under a conservation easement purchased with taxpayer dollars years ago. Another 50 acre parcel sits inaccessibly high on the remote ridge, and is commercially worthless to the developers.
The plan is cynical in that it allows the state to abdicate its responsibility, under the guise of “local control”, by simultaneously enabling private resort development and sprawl, and then dumping the regulatory burden of controlling that same development on the small rural town of Goshen.
Mount Sunapee Resort has shown a proclivity to enter into expensive, drawn out litigation with the state over the terms of the ski area lease. I’m a resident of Goshen, and I have served on its regulatory boards. This small town, with its limited legal resources, is ill equipped to withstand the legal might of this corporate Goliath. Make no mistake…The resort developers are one zoning variance away from unleashing condominium development and resort sprawl on our region.
The plan is short sighted in that it ignores climate change, and binds our region’s economy to a ski industry that is likely in decline. Commissioner Rose has stated that he is unconcerned about the effects of climate change on New Hampshire’s ski industry. Climate scientists emphatically disagree; with at least one report specifically stating that the ski area at Mount Sunapee could be out of business by 2040. If so, the people of New Hampshire will be left with a fractured, degraded state park, and a rusting monument to greed.
For these reasons, and many others, Friends of Mount Sunapee strongly urge Governor Hassan and Executive Council to vote down this ill-conceived plan.
For further information contact FOMS.
Gary Stansfield is a resident of Goshen, N.H., and vice president of Friends of Mount Sunapee.