Last Wednesday (Oct. 31, 2108) Governor Sununu announced that the proposed lease changes for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park were removed from the Executive Council agenda and will return before the Council "in a slightly different form in a couple of weeks."
Additionally, on October 31, Councilor Russell Prescott, questioned the authority of the Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) to oversee the operating lease at Mount Sunapee and cited a statutory requirement. Prescott pointed to the law (RSA 12-A, 29-a), which requires a commission to administer the lease.
Listen to the Mount Sunapee discussion before the Governor and Council on October 31 via Newport Community TV Online, starting at 1: 17 in the video.
An advisory commission is the subject of the third of three contract revisions being sought the Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.
The legislature called for a commission to administer and oversee the ski area lease, not to advise, Prescott asserted.
The West Bowl and other lease issues are mute "if we haven't gotten to the crux of who is in charge. The public, I think, is not being served when the law is not being adhered to. The commission was supposed to oversee and administer the lease," Prescott said.
MacDonald stated that the existing operating lease now makes "no attempt" to meet the statuary requirements of RSA 12-A. The submitted change is "progress from where we were" the Attorney General asserted.
Upon further questioning, MacDonald conceded, "it was as far as we could get with Vail."
Director Phil Byrce (NH Parks and Recreation) maintained that the Department meets the intent of the law by engaging an "advisory' committee.
However, Prescott further questioned the legality of negotiating the law and a lease amendment that falls short of a legislative mandate. He pressed the Attorney General to revisit the issue.
From 1998 to now, an administration and oversight commission was to be the authority managing the lease, Prescott said.
The lease amendments are the result of negotiation by the State with the new lessee, Vail Resorts. Vail took over the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee in late September.
Mt. Sunapee Side Agreement
A side agreement between DNCR and Vail shows the specific contract changes proposed by DNCR. The arrangement however also appears to limit DNCR in re-negotiating with Vail as long as the agreement is in effect.
See DNCR Vail Side Agreement 2018Sept26 (pdf).
The Executive Council will likely reconsider three changes to the State contract with Vail as separate amendments on November 14.
Listen to the Mount Sunapee discussion before the Governor and Council on October 31 via Newport Community TV Online, starting at 1: 17 in the video.
Or download and listen to an audio recording of the Mount Sunapee discussion of Governor and Council on October 31, 2108 (MP3 file, 10 min).
The Council tabled three proposed ski area lease changes, including a West Bowl amendment, on October 17. A public information session to address Councilor questions followed on October 23.
See FOMS library of related documents.
Here is a link to FOMS October 29 action alert.
The controversial West Bowl amendment is back before the Governor and Council. On Wednesday, October 31, the Executive Council will take up three changes to the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park including a West Bowl amendment. Read more...
Last week the NH Executive Council held an informational meeting on the proposed lease amendments for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The session was held on October 23, 2018, at the State House in Concord.
View via Newport Community TV Online.
The video starts with Councilors Russell Prescott and Andru Volinksy speaking with Forest Society representative Will Abbott. To hear the earlier discussion, see FOMS prior post for an audio recording of the meeting.
Meeting participants included Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Senior Assistant Attorney General Dianne Martin, Sabrina Stanwood (Natural Heritage Bureau) and Will Abbott (Forest Society).
An audio recording of the meeting and more info including how to contact Executive Council members is available via FOMS prior post.
Two of the five councilors, Russell Prescott and Andru Volinsky, attended and asked questions on Tuesday.
Meeting participants included Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Senior Assistant Attorney General Dianne Martin, Sabrina Stanwood (Natural Heritage Bureau) and Will Abbott (Forest Society).
When Governor and Council met on October 17, the councilors voted 5-0 to table the proposed Mount Sunapee lease changes to allow time to get more information and consider the DNCR request.
The Council will take action on the West Bowl and other lease amendments when it next meets on October 31.
Friends of Mount Sunapee opposes the West Bowl amendment and seeks an Administration Commission to oversee the ski area lease, as called for by law.
Now is the time to call or email Executive Council members:
District 1 - Councilor Joseph D. Kenney
District 2 - Councilor Andru Volinsky
District 3 - Councilor Russell E. Prescott
District 4 - Councilor Christopher C. Pappas
District 5 - Councilor David K. Wheeler
West Bowl Amendment
The most controversial lease amendment would extend to Vail the West Bowl expansion option, although Vail has yet to disclose any ski area development plans within or outside the existing leasehold area. Vail assumed the Mount Sunapee ski area lease and operations last month.
The West Bowl amendment would enable resort and real estate development on land adjoining Mount Sunapee State Park. The expansion plan would allow for extending the park boundary while supporting the build out on private property held or assigned by Vail. The private development would retain perpetual easements and access to the State Park, according to the proposed lease amendment.
Here is the audio of the Executive Council discussion on Oct. 17, 2018, about Mount Sunapee and the proposed lease amendments. (eight minutes, mp3)
Last week, the Executive Council voted 5-0 to table lease amendments for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The councilors asked for more information and time before deciding on three lease changes, including a West Bowl amendment.
Vail Resorts took over the lease and operations of the state-owned ski area last month.
Executive Council Mount Sunapee meeting Oct. 23
The council will hold an information meeting on Tues., Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. at the State House (Executive Council Chambers). The meeting is open to the public. Click on the public notice (to the left).
Questions and comments about Mount Sunapee
It is essential to contact the Executive Council members with your questions and comments on the lease changes proposed for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.
We welcome your comments and questions, as well. See FOMS contact page.
On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Executive Council requested an information session before voting on amendments to the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park.
View or hear the Council's Mount Sunapee discussion (Oct. 17, 2018) via Newport Community TV Online. (The Sunapee discussion starts at 1:22.)
Listen to an eight-minute audio clip (mp3) of the Mount Sunapee discussion:
Commissioner Sarah Stewart, of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), was before the Governor and Council on October 17 to request changes to the operating lease now held by Vail Resorts.
Vail assumed the Mount Sunapee ski area lease on September 27, 2018, a day after Stewart announced the Department's approval of the lease transfer to Vail.
Mount Sunapee lease amendments
As a result of the State's lease review process, DNCR came forward with three lease amendments, which Vail agreed with, according to Stewart. Lease amendments require Governor and Council approval.
DNCR seeks a West Bowl amendment. Vail needs a lease change to assume the 2016 West Bowl lease terms granted to the prior operator and DNCR wants to extend to Vail the West Bowl expansion option. The lease revisions of 2016, which enabled resort and real estate development of Mount Sunapee's western slopes, became null and void when Vail acquired The Sunapee Difference.
The other lease changes relate to adding "change of control language" that "broadens the state’s authority to approve the assignment or transfer of the lease" and "updating the lease to include a reference to a Mount Sunapee Advisory Commission," Stewart explained in September.
Vail closed its deal in September to purchase Triple Peak LLC, the parent company of the Muellers' ski area holdings in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Colorado. Vail now owns The Sunapee Difference, which operates Mount Sunapee Resort.
For more information
- See FOMS listing of documents.
- Other resources are available via FOMS library of documents and the NH Parks website.
The councilors' information session, although open to the public, will not provide for public participation. The Council will post the date of the information meeting on the EC website.
Share your comments and questions with the Executive Council.
To share info with FOMS, see our Contact Page.
Update: The councilors' information meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at 1 p.m., at the State House in the Executive Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public. See the notice.
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:
- Extend to Vail Resorts the 2016 lease amendment that enables resort development of the West Bowl.
- Add a "change in control provision."
- Reference an advisory commission.
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: email@example.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.
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:
- Summary and Response to Public Comments, dated Sept. 17, 2018
- Public Comments on Proposed Lease Transfer to Vail, as of Aug. 8, 2018
- DNCR Auditor Report, dated Dec. 12, 2017
- Photos from Vail regarding joint branding signage
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.
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.
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, 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...
Mount Sunapee State Park contains primeval forest, first documented in the Manual of Mount Sunapee in 1915 and rediscovered in 1997 by conservation ecologist Chris Kane. Permanent protection of Mount Sunapee's "exemplary" and ancient forests is a priority for the Friends of Mount Sunapee. The film The Lost Forests of New England further informs and inspires our work.
Forest film informs and inspires
What is an ancient or old growth forest? What do they look like? Why are they important?
The Lost Forests of New England - Eastern Old Growth, is a one-hour film published in May 2018 by New England Forests. The film answers questions about ancient forest history and science and more! It tells of the old growth forests of New England: "what they once were, what changes have taken place across central New England since European settlers arrived, and what our remnant old growth stands look like today."
The film features presentations by David Foster, David Orwig, Neil Pederson (Harvard Forest) Tony D'Amato (University of Vermont) Tom Wessels (Antioch University New England) Peter Dunwiddie (University of Washington) Bob Leverett (Native Tree Society) Joan Maloof (Old Growth Forest Network).
- The New England Forests companion blog at www.neforests.com
- The story behind the making of the film via the New England Forests blog, which highlights a dilemma:
"...these ancient forests are small fragments of what once was, and as such are vulnerable to loss from ignorance of their value and ecological import... To be protected, their existence must be known to those who would care enough about them to be vigilant (that would be you). But the other side of that coin is that sometimes, attention by too many well-meaning enthusiasts results in a place succumbing to "too much love". That put us in a tight spot... we wanted to see these remnants protected forever, but not at the cost of losing them to heavy traffic!"
Mount Sunapee's exemplary forest
Friends of Mount Sunapee, following over a century of preservation efforts on the mountain, advocates for the protection of the state park's natural heritage for current and future generations. FOMS seeks protection of its large forest ecosystems including ancient forests within the Exemplary Natural Community Systems (ENCS).
Learn about Mount Sunapee's natural heritage via our website.
Please contact FOMS if you'd like more info or would like to help us in our work.
For FOMS updates, sign up here.
Courtesy photo, Mount Sunapee State Park, 2018.
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
Your help is needed now. Read the FOMS email alert about the proposed change at Mount Sunapee State Park and how you can send comments to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the agency that oversees our state parks.
DNCR is taking public comments on a lease change proposal, the sale to Vail Resorts of the ski area lease and operations and adjoining lands. Comments are due by 4 p.m. Wednesday, August 8, 2018.
Send your comments and questions to:
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, c/o Mount Sunapee Comments, 172 Pembroke Rd, Concord, NH 03301. Email: MountSunapeeComments@dncr.nh.gov
Vail Resorts seeks to acquire the lease of the state-owned ski area, the resort operations, and the Mueller's privately held land adjoining the park and on Mount Sunapee's western slopes. DNCR and the New Hampshire Attorney General are currently considering a lease change to VR NE Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc.
This is a critical time for Mount Sunapee State Park. What do you expect and want at your state park and from prospective lessee Vail Resorts? What do we need for an oversight process?
The Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) has concerns about access and use of our public lands within the leasehold area and the impact of resort development on the culture, traditional uses, and natural environment of the park. There are regional impacts to consider, as well.
At this crucial time, the Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) believes we need action that includes:
- A noticed and recorded public hearing on the proposed lease change BEFORE the State makes any decisions. Vail is an industry giant and there are regional impacts to consider, as well.
- Formation of an accountable oversight commission to administer the ski area lease, as required by New Hampshire law.
- Collaborative action to protect Mount Sunapee's western slopes, land conservation that precludes resort and real estate development of the "West Bowl" land and that respects the original intent of the lease and leasehold area.
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
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.
The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has now posted the agenda and additional information for tonight's (July 25) meeting at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury. The agency describes the meeting as "an informational session only." The public meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Sunapee Lodge at the state park, Route 103, in Newbury.
- See Sunapee-Public-Info-Session-Agenda-7-25-18
- See Sunapee-Lease-Assignment -Info-sheet-pab-7-24-18-DHM
What are some people saying about the Vail Sunapee deal?
See related articles:
- Mount Sunapee lease sale is an opportunity to undo a wrong, OpEd, July 10, 2018, by Tom Elliott, via NH Business Review
- Vail to face tough questions over Mount Sunapee Resort deal, July 22, 2018, via NH Public Radio
Please contact FOMS with your questions, concerns, and comments.
Deadline for Mount Sunapee State Park Public Comments
The recent post by DNCR says that "public comments pertaining to the proposed transfer of the Lease and Operating Agreement to Vail" can be submitted by 4 p.m., August 1, 2018, to:
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
c/o Mount Sunapee Comments
172 Pembroke Road
Concord, NH 03301
DNCR points to the NH Parks Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee web page for more information.
Vail Resorts seeks to acquire the ski area lease and resort operations at Mount Sunapee State Park.
Please join FOMS at the Mount Sunapee State Park Information Session on Wednesday, July 25 at 6 pm. at Mount Sunapee State Park (Sunapee Lodge), Route 103, Newbury, N.H.
The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) is holding this session to address the proposed transfer of the State’s lease of a portion of Mount Sunapee State Park to VR NE Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc.
"Details of the transaction will be presented by the parties and the public will have an opportunity to be heard and to ask questions," the DNCR media release says.
We encourage Friends to share their questions and concerns at the July 25 meeting.
The proposed lease transfer to Vail prompts many questions. Representatives of Friends of Mount Sunapee have provided DNCR Commissioner Sarah Stewart and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald several points of interest to us. See FOMS Organizational Positions, as of 7-10-2018, a summary of issues recently presented to the commissioner and attorney general.
FOMS continues to advocate for accountable, public oversight of our park including ski area operations. We must protect the park's natural heritage and the inherent public values that our New Hampshire state parks seek to provide.
Make your comments heard.
Wednesday, July 25 at 6 p.m.
Mount Sunapee State Park Information Session
Mount Sunapee State Park, Sunapee Lodge, Newbury, NH
For more information, please contact us.
Thank you for your continued support,
Directors Steve, Alan, Deb, Catherine, Jolyon and Dan
For the Friends of Mount Sunapee
Read the response from Commissioner Sarah Stewart to the Annual Operating Plan 2018-2019 prepared by Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort. The 18-page document is addressed to Timothy Mueller, MSR president. The Resort operates the state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.
The agency's response shows that the AOP (dated May 15, 2018) presented to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is revised, as of June 21. The Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee met to discuss the AOP on June 19. Revisions were requested at the meeting.
- See Commissioner Stewart's response: L-Stewart_AOP_2018-2019 (pdf 960kb)
- View the meeting (via Vimeo): Operator discusses Mount Sunapee annual plan
- Read related FOMS post: Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee meets June 19 in Newbury
See related FOMS posts:
Commissioner Sarah Stewart, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), quickly explained the meeting's purpose: discussion of the Annual Operating Plan (2018-2019 from Mount Sunapee Resort. Jay Gamble, vice-president and general manager for MSR, then reviewed current operations and upcoming programs, as presented in the AOP. (See the AOP here: MSR_AOP 2018-2019 (pdf 9MB)
The operator of the state-owned ski area submits a plan each year to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. DNCR is the agency that oversees NH Parks.
The Vail announcement
However, the big news about Mount Sunapee came on June 4. That was Stewart's first day on the job as DNCR commissioner. That morning, ski industry giant Vail Resorts announced its plan to buy the operating lease and leasehold contract for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. However, the Vail announcement was not on the agenda for the June 19 meeting.
Instead, at the start of the meeting, Stewart distributed to committee members a letter to Governor Sununu from the offices of the Attorney General and DNCR about Vail's declaration. The State is working to put together a public information session to address the Vail - Sunapee transaction, Stewart said.
View the letter (June 15, 2018) to the Governor here: 20180615-sunapee-letter
The meeting agenda and related information follow:
- The MSAC Agenda (pdf).
- The draft minutes for the MSAC meeting, May 31, 2017: MSAC minutes 053117 DRAFT (pdf).
- The committee roster: MSAC_Roster5-30-18 (pdf).
- The Annual Operating Plan 2018-2019 submitted by Mount Sunapee Resort: MSR_AOP 2018-2019_FINAL (pdf 9MB).
The big news at Mount Sunapee
Vail Resorts announced (June 4, 2018) that Vail intends to acquire the ski area lease and operations at Mount Sunapee. The state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park encompasses more than 1,100 acres of public land. The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) is responsible for state park management.
State officials say the lease transfer to Vail requires State approval.
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and DNCR Commissioner Sarah Stewart said that they "will work with the parties to the transaction to obtain and review carefully all information necessary, prior to any approval."
In a letter to Governor Sununu and the Executive Council, the Attorney General and Commissioner wrote that DNCR would hold at least one information session where "the public will have an opportunity to be heard and to ask questions."
At this meeting, "parties to the transaction" will provide details about the proposal. DNCR expects to announce the date of the informational session within two weeks, an agency spokesperson said Monday.
State officials released a statement Friday afternoon (June 15, 2018) about the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. Vail Resorts seeks to acquire the ski area lease and operations at Mount Sunapee.
"As a condition of the Vail transaction, the State lease [at Mount Sunapee] will need to be assigned. This assignment will require approval by the State," according to New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.
In a joint statement with Commissioner Sarah Stewart, Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources, the Attorney General said that the "details of the proposed transaction" have been sent to the Governor and Executive Council. (See below.)
Concerning this transaction, the Attorney General and Commissioner pointed to the importance of transparency and public involvement.
"Information concerning the transaction will be made available on the DNCR website page and there will be a public information session," the statement said.
The news release did not provide details or a date for the public information session.
The proposed lease transfer and sale at Mount Sunapee
Vail Resorts announced (June 4, 2018) that it intended to acquire the ski area lease and operations at Mount Sunapee. The Mueller family announced that day that they had "made the decision to sell the operating lease of Mount Sunapee Resort to Vail Resorts, along with Okemo Mountain and Crested Butte Mountain Resort."
The ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park now encompasses more than 1,100 acres of public land, managed by N.H. DNCR, Division of Parks and Recreation.
Currently, Och-Ziff is the leaseholder and The Sunapee Difference dba Mount Sunapee Resort is the operator.
Read about the Sunapee Vail transaction
- See the Attorney General's letter "detailing" the Vail/Triple Peaks/Och-Ziff transaction here: 20180615-sunapee-letter (pdf)
- See the AG/DNCR statement here: 20180615-sunapee (pdf)
- See related article: AG says proposed sale of Mount Sunapee requires state approval, reported by Ethan DeWitt, Concord Monitor, June 15, 2018, via http://www.concordmonitor.com/New-Hampshire-Attorney-General-Vail-Sunapee-will-require-state-approval-18216953
The Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee will meet with DNCR Commissioner Sarah Stewart on Tuesday, June 19, at the Newbury Town Offices. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.
(June 16, 2018: Additional information added to the original post)
In response to the announcement by Vail Resorts (June 4, 2018) that Vail intends to acquire the ski area lease and resort operations at Mount Sunapee State Park, Friends of Mount Sunapee released this statement:
FOMS Statement, June 4, 2018
Today Friends of Mount Sunapee read the press release from Vail Resorts about Vail's pending purchase of the ski area lease and resort operations at Mount Sunapee State Park.
We are looking for assurances from the State that this matter will come before the Governor and Executive Council for review and that there will be a public process to get information and answers to people's questions and concerns.
Vigorous oversight and transparent management are needed. As stewards of our public lands, the State has the responsibility to manage and protect the public interest at Mount Sunapee and to preserve the park's unique natural resources.
Further, the State has a legal obligation to protect public lands that it owns in the name of the citizens of New Hampshire.
Less than a year ago, we learned after the fact that the ski area lease changed hands in April 2017 without public review. At that time, the criminally sanctioned hedge fund Och-Ziff had purchased the Sunapee lease without Governor and Council approval. State business should not happen that way. We need to know that the State has not lost control of the ski area lease to unaccountable corporate entities.
The Friends of Mount Sunapee advocates for the protection of Mount Sunapee State Park for its essential public values; conservation of the Mount Sunapee highlands and watersheds; and preservation of the unique character and natural beauty of the rural communities in the mountain’s shadow.
The Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee will meet on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. The committee, chaired by a new commissioner, will meet at 10 a.m. at the Newbury Town Offices, Route 103. Sarah Stewart will serve as the next commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR). Stewart replaces Jeffrey Rose, as of June 4.
New Hampshire Parks recently posted the meeting date and committee roster.
We anticipate the committee will review the Annual Operating Plan for 2018-2019 for Mount Sunapee Resort. Additionally, we expect the operator will provide a brief overview of last year activities.
NH DNCR and Mount Sunapee
The Mount Sunapee ski area operates on public land, more than 1,100 acres at Mount Sunapee State Park. The operator, Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort submits an annual plan to DNCR.
Another corporate entity at Mount Sunapee is the leaseholder. In 2017, a hedge fund Och-Ziff purchased the ski area lease. OZ's role in formulating the annual operating plan is unknown. The agreement between the leaseholder and operator is also private.
Read the 2018-2019 Annual Operating Plan here: MSR_AOP 2018-2019 (pdf 9MB).
A brief primer:
- The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is the agency that oversees N.H. Parks (after legislative reorganization in 2017 of the Department of Resources and Economic Development).
- The DNCR commissioner chairs the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee.
- The committee consists of 11 members. See MSAC_Roster5-30-18
- MSAC meetings, such as that on June 19, are open to the public, according to RSA 91-A:2.
- "Open to the public" means that anyone may attend, take notes, record and photograph the meeting. However, the public has no guaranteed right to speak, as required at a "public hearing."
Note, at most MSAC meetings the public is allowed to ask questions after review of the annual plan. We encourage people to attend MSAC meetings. Additionally, we ask that you share your questions and concerns with advisory committee members including the commissioner.
Please contact Friends of Mount Sunapee for more information.
See related post:
The Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for 2018-2019 proposed for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park is now available. Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort (MSR) prepared the plan for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
No "West Bowl" expansion projects are in this plan. This AOP focuses on "maintenance" and "capital improvements" in the current leasehold area.
Western expansion has been an on-going concern to Friends of Mount Sunapee. In 2016, the State went ahead and revised the ski area lease to allow western development beyond the existing park boundary. FOMS continues to oppose this expansion plan, which enables private resort and real estate development adjoining the park.
Now, back to the Mount Sunapee annual plan
You can read or download the Mount Sunapee operating plan here: MSR_AOP 2018-2019 (pdf 9MB)
You can read the oversight policy here: Public-Involvement-Policy-1998 (pdf 242kb)
The policy states that the "AOP shall describe in detail" an "environmental management program". However, the Resort fails to provide current and complete environmental information in its plans. Wildlife studies and natural heritage data are readily available from N.H. Fish and Game and the Natural Heritage Bureau.
FOMS volunteers will now review this latest AOP and provide comment in a future post. Also, you can seek out additional information in June when the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee meets to discuss the plan. FOMS will post the meeting date and agenda when known.
State management at Mount Sunapee
The State developed the park and ski area with state and federal monies for public outdoor recreation and benefit. Corporate lessees operate the ski area, which encompasses 1,000+ acres of prime conservation land. Both the federal funding requirements and N.H. legislative provisions require public management of the entire park.
Therefore, FOMS advocates for diligent oversight of the lease agreement to assure all federal and state requirements are met. Additionally, DNCR needs to make sure the operator satisfies the terms described in annual plan approvals. These approvals by the agency are often subject to inter-agency review and local permitting. Yes, responsible management requires compliance monitoring, as well.
And for more information
Each year, May 15th is the due date for the Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. In this plan, the operator Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort outlines maintenance and capital improvement projects proposed for the coming year.
"The AOP shall allow public access to the leased premises for recreational and park activities," according to the State's oversight policy. "The State has a continuing obligation under state and federal law to make the ski area at Mount Sunapee available to the public for outdoor recreational use."
The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is the agency that now oversees New Hampshire parks, after the reorganization of DRED (the Dept. of Resources and Economic Development) in 2017. The operator submits the AOP to DNCR.
We expect the DNCR commissioner will hold a public meeting in Newbury in June with the Mount Sunapee advisory panel. At the meeting, we anticipate a resort representative will present the AOP and review prior year operations.
The plan is to include detailed information about the types of recreational activities available to the public; ski, snowmaking and grooming operations; the status of special use permits and leases; marketing and advertising; environmental management program; signage; and implementation of the master development plan.
Once the plan is available, Friends of Mount Sunapee will post it on its website and Facebook page. When known, we'll publish the meeting date, as well. Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public; we encourage people to attend.
According to the oversight policy, the commissioner shall respond to the plan no later than June 30th. DNCR's new commissioner Sarah Stewart takes office on June 4.
Friends of Mount Sunapee believes that state of New Hampshire's primary responsibility is to serve as guardian of the public interest at Mount Sunapee State Park. If you have interest in or information to share about oversight of the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee, please contact us.
You can't make this stuff up. The headline reads:
Och-Ziff So Messed Up Top Exec. Is Fleeing To The Comparative Calm Of Cryptocurrencies
Is this who we want as a leaseholder at Mount Sunapee State Park?
In 2017, Och-Ziff, a criminally sanctioned hedge fund, assumed the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee. State officials said the deal, structured as it was, precluded State scrutiny. Och-Ziff took over the Sunapee lease without any review by Governor and Executive Councilor. The resort and ski area takes in more than 1,000 acres of public land and infrastructure.
To join FOMS citizen advocates working on oversight and management issues, please contact us. We could use the help.
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
- 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.
"LSPA has been awarded a federal grant through the NHDES Watershed Assistance Program to update the existing Management Plan for the Sunapee Watershed," according to the announcement. "We welcome town board members and the public to learn about and contribute to the 2-year process."
"The Sunapee watershed consists of portions of the towns of Sunapee, Newbury, New London, Springfield, Goshen, and Sutton."
For more information see, the LSPA event listing ---
The 2008 management plan is available on FOMS website ---
Saving Special Places, New Hampshire's annual land conservation conference will be held on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton. This year's conference will offer 30 workshops. Topics will include conservation planning; farmland conservation; wildlife habitats and species; legal issues; "creative ways to connect," and more. Additionally, the event provides networking opportunities with colleagues and practitioners in land conservation. For more information, go to savingspecialplaces.org.
Wildflowers, our native song dog (the eastern coyote), log driving, and bogs and ferns are the subject of four different programs in the 2018 Cottrell-Baldwin Environmental Lecture Series that starts March 20th at Fox Forest in Hillsborough.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Caroline A. Fox Research & Demonstration Forest co-sponsor the presentations:
- Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - Wildflowers of New England with Ted Elliman, New England Wildflower Society botanist and author.
- Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - The Real Eastern Coyote with Chris Schadler, wildlife biologist specializing in wild candis.
- Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - Log Drives of the Connecticut River Valley with Helen Pike, journalist and author.
- Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - Bogs & Ferns with Dr. Ronald B. Davis, photographer and author.
All programs start at 7 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. For more information, go to forestsociety.org/thingstodo.
"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 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:
"Beech trees booming as climate changes, and that's bad for N.H. forests" via Concord Monitor
Citing what occurred at Mount Sunapee State Park and the need for transparency and public trust in the management of our parks, the N. H. Sierra Club testified in early February in support of HB 1456, a bill "relative to state acceptance of the lowest reasonable bid contract and relative to the sale, lease, or transfer of state property."
The lease of the Mount Sunapee ski area most recently changed hands in 2017 "without public notice or legislative transparency," said Sierra Club Executive Director Cathy Corkery.
"At the request of NH Sierra Club and others, the state did hold a public meeting, but it was scheduled months after the transaction was final," said Corkery. "At that public meeting, the New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald agreed that the lease approval process was inadequate."
In 2017, the criminally sanctioned hedgefund Och-Ziff (OZ) purchased the Mount Sunapee lease from the real estate investment trust CNL Lifestyle Properties. The state-owned ski area was first leased by the state to Okemo in 1998. Okemo sold the lease to CNL in 2008.
Controversy has followed the Mount Sunapee lease prior to and after its inception. The re-occuring issues relate to resort expansion, proposed private real estate development, and the state's failure to protect the public's interest and the conservation and public values of the park.
NOTE: On February 23, 2018, the House Committee on Executive Departments and Administration voted HB 1456 "inexpedient to legislate," which kills the bill for this year.
Friends of Mount Sunapee continues to advocate for transparent and complete reporting of the financial and managerial operations of the ski area lease (of public conservation land) at Mount Sunapee State Park. We believe this is key to compliance and ethical management.
Proposed wording changes in the Goshen zoning and building ordinances for the town's Recreation District will be discussed at a public hearing held by the the Planning Board on Thursday, December 7, 2017, at 7 pm at the Goshen Town Hall.
Adopted in 2014, the regulations for the Goshen Recreation District address "year-round recreational and other uses" within the leasehold area at Mount Sunapee State Park and on adjoining lands owned by Sunapee Land Holdings, a limited liability company controlled by the operator of Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort.
The town planners seek to clarify "Uses Permitted (subject to site plan review approval by the Planning Board)" by adding: "A.4.b19 Anything not specifically listed above needs approval from the Planning Board and/or Zoning Board."
Earlier in the year, Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort installed a 3D archery range in Goshen on state park land without prior consultation with the planning board or site plan review. According to town-posted correspondence on the subject, the planning board hopes that the wording change will prevent similar problems in the future.
"This will be a public hearing where residents may voice their concerns if desired," the notice states. No wording is proposed to be removed or otherwise altered in this section, town planners say. The wording change will go to voters during Town Meeting in March 2018.
The Friends of Mount Sunapee and the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club are seeking a full and transparent review into Och-Ziff's acquisition of the Mount Sunapee lease. In April 2017, Och-Ziff, a New York based hedge fund criminally sanctioned under the Foreign Corruptions Act, acquired the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park.
"We appeal to elected state officials to begin a complete and transparent review of this lease acquisition and all related documents. The people of New Hampshire, who are the rightful owners of the Mount Sunapee State Park, must be assured that our state park is in the hands worthy of the public's trust," said Steve Russell, the president of the Friends of Mount Sunapee.
Russell commented at the state-sponsored "public information session," which attracted more than 100 people to the state park Tuesday evening.
Before the meeting, some people demonstrated their concerns about the state's management of the park by holding signs that read: "Lease Violated," "Mount Sunapee State Park, Endangered Species," and "Where Is State Oversight?"
In attendance were state officials including Executive Councilors Andru Volinsky and Joseph Kenney, Commissioner Jeffrey Rose (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Associate AG Anne Edwards, and representatives from Och-Ziff, who tried to allay public concerns about Och-Ziff's corporate practices.
However, many members of the audience appeared skeptical and unconvinced by the state's assertions and corporate promises and left with questions unanswered about why the Och-Ziff transaction occurred without appropriate financial review and what impact it will have on maintenance and development of the park.
"The New Hampshire attorney general's assertion that this transaction is not within the purview of state oversight contradicts language in the original 1998 Lease Agreement," said Russell.
"Examining risk and financial security is essential to maintaining the public trust. It is standard practice in all state contracts. This contract involving the future of Mount Sunapee State Park is no exception," he added.
The ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park now takes in 1035 acres of public land, forested and developed land in Newbury and Goshen.
Read related articles:
Questions Raised About Sunapee Resort Ownership - Associated Press via the Valley News, August 24, 2017) ---
State officials, hedge fund address public concerns around Mount Sunapee lease - NHPR, August 23, 2017 ---
Today the national watchdog group Public Citizen warned the State of New Hampshire about the failures of deferred prosecution agreements in regards to Och-Ziff, the new leaseholder at Mount Sunapee State Park.
Download/view the Public Citizen letter here: PCochziff (pdf 66kb)
The Department of Justice secured a criminal plea by Och-Ziff for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in September 2016. "Central to the criminal plea by Och-Ziff, the company entered into a three-year Deferred Prosecution Agreement," according to Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen.
Public Citizen asserts that Deferred Prosecution Agreements "have proved to be inadequate enforcement and oversight mechanisms" and have not held corporate criminals appropriately accountable.
The letter to Commissioner Jeffrey Rose of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) comes one day before a state-sponsored "public information session" about the ski area lease, Och-Ziff, and future of Mount Sunapee. The meeting to address public concerns will be on Tuesday, August 22 at 6 pm at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury.
"The State of New Hampshire should not rely solely on the terms of the DOJ Deferred Prosecution Agreement as a primary instrument to ensure that Och-Ziff is a reputable steward of public resources," wrote Slocum. "Rather it would be prudent for the State of New Hampshire to insist on additional measures to ensure that a corporate felon is an adequate custodian of the lease."
In June 2017, the DNCR commissioner and N.H. attorney general revealed that Och-Ziff, a New York-based hedge fund, was the new leaseholder at Mount Sunapee. According to N.H. registry filings, Och-Ziff took over the ski area lease April 6, 2017.
In September 2016, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sanctioned Och-Ziff under the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, resulting in civil and criminal fines totaling $412 million.
At the time, Public Citizen reported, "Och-Ziff engaged in a massive bribery scheme in numerous African countries, over a period of years, with the direct involvement of high-level officials. It did not self-disclose its illegal activities and was slow to cooperate fully in the early stages of the government’s investigation."
An enforcement officer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated, “Och-Ziff engaged in complicated, far-reaching schemes to get special access and secure significant deals and profits through corruption,” according to the New York Times (October 2016).
The ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park takes in approximately 1,135 acres (public land) in Newbury and Goshen, which includes ancient forest, exemplary natural communities, public hiking trails and recreational facilities and infrastructure. DNCR is the state agency responsible for managing N.H. state parks.
According to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), Division of Parks and Recreation, the "public informational session" pertains "to the lease holder of the Lease and Operating Agreement for Mount Sunapee State Park ski area."
In June, state wide newspapers reported on Och-Ziff taking over the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee. The Concord Monitor reported:
After bribery schemes in Africa led the U.S. government to fine the new operator of Mount Sunapee Resort $412 million last year – one of the biggest penalties ever issued under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – the New Hampshire attorney general wants to hold a public information meeting about plans for the resort. --- via Concord Monitor (June 7, 2017)
At the time, the Union Leader reported that Attorney General Gordon McDonald "said the deal between Och-Ziff [the new operator] and CNL was structured to avoid triggering the state’s right to intervene."
Earlier in the year, Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) communicated to Commissioner Jeffrey Rose concerns about Och-Ziff taking over the lease. Rose oversees the agency responsible for management of New Hampshire's state parks.
"In recognition of the State's responsibilities in the oversight and management of Mount Sunapee State Park, we urge the State to seek a leaseholder that meets ethical and financial standards that inspire public confidence and trust," FOMS wrote the commissioner.
Information Session at Mount Sunapee State Park
When: Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at 6 p.m.
Where: Mount Sunapee Resort’s Sunapee Lodge located at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury, NH.
See DNCR notice: Rose Mt Sunapee Public Info Session scheduled for 082217 (pdf 26kb)
The Newbury Planning Board is accepting public input through July 11, 2017, on the town's revised Master Plan, and will consider adoption of the final Master Plan at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at 7 p.m.
Comment on the Master Plan, Envision Newbury 2027, can be submitted to Newbury Land Use Coordinator Patricia Sweet-MacDonald.
The plan and contact information are available on the Town of Newbury website.
Or download the draft Master Plan here: mpdraft4.2_6.16.17_xs (pdf 7MB).
The New Hampshire budget and Committee of Conference Report contain provisions that have received little notice: the immediate break-up of DRED, the Department of Resources and Economic Development. The split of DRED's four divisions -- economic development, parks and recreation, forests and lands, and travel and tourism -- is effective July 1, 2017.
A new Department of Business and Economic Affairs will include economic development and travel and tourism.
A Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will now include the divisions of parks and recreation; forests and lands; libraries; arts; film and digital media; and historical resources, which shall also be known as the state historic preservation office.
Governor Chris Sununu sought, and legislators approved the split contained in the Committee of Conference Report (HB5 517) and appropriations (contained in HB 144).
If you can help the Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) with analysis and coverage of this change in oversight of our parks and cultural and historical resources, please contact us.
Download/view the Committee of Conference Report HB 517 Adopted 6-22-17 (pdf 886kb)
Download/view HB 144 Adopted 6-22-17 (pdf 1.7MB)
The Newbury Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Thursday, June 29, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. in the Newbury Town Offices to review and discuss the Adoption of 2017 Master Plan Update. A hard copy of the Draft 2017 Master Plan entitled Envision Newbury 2027 is available for public review at the Town Office Building and at the Newbury Public Library (during regular business hours) and available for review on the Town of Newbury website https://www.newburynh.org/newbury-master-plan.
The vision, goals and recommendations contained in this Master Plan are designed to guide and aid the Planning Board and other Town boards in performing their respective duties with the overall goal of accomplishing coordinated and harmonious development of the Town of Newbury, New Hampshire.
The Friends of Mount Sunapee continues to gather and make available via its website information about the sale of the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park to the criminally sanctioned hedge fund Och-Ziff. The ownership change and a $251 million Leasehold Mortgage, which now encumbers the state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee, occurred in April without review by the Executive Council.
The FOMS library of news articles and registry filings now include the following documents, all dated April 6, 2017: a Quit Claim Deed; $251 Leasehold Mortgage; and Subordination, Non-Disturbance, and Attornment Agreement.
See related articles and industry press releases.
See related Lessor Estoppel and AG/DRED Memo
Responsibilities of the Executive Council include to approve contracts with a value greater than $25,000 and to assure "all major executive branch business is conducted in public with the press present."
Public comment on the Annual Operating Plan 2017-18 for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park can be submitted by June 19, 2017, to the Dept. of Resources and Economic Development, the agency that oversees NH's state parks. The resort operator gave a brief overview of the AOP at the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee meeting on May 31, 2017.
View/download the AOP here: MSR-AOP-2017-2018-Final (pdf 6MB)
Written public comment due by June 19, 2017 at 4 p.m.
Commissioner Jeffrey J. Rose
RE: Mt. Sunapee AOP 2017-18
Dept. Resources & Economic Development
172 Pembroke Rd
Concord NH 03301
Email to: MountSunapeeComments@dred.nh.gov
The Union Leader reports: "Sunapee's new leaseholder fined millions in bribery case" and "... the deal between Och-Ziff and CNL was structured to avoid triggering the state’s right to intervene."
"MacDonald [NH's attorney general] said the terms of the lease agreement allow the state to intervene if the company holding the lease decides to sell or transfer it to someone else, but no provision was made for the state to intervene if the company holding the lease is bought by another company."
On June 7, 2017, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources and Economic Development, issued a memo on the subject.
See NH AG DRED Mt Sunapee Ski Area Memo 2017June7 (pdf 1.2MB)
If you have questions or information to share, please contact us.
Update 06/17/2017 - The memo of June 7, 2017, by NH's attorney general and DRED commissioner referenced a Lessor Estoppel (signed in September 2016). See CNL Ski - Ground Lease Estoppel - Sunapee -State of New Hampshire (pdf 5 MB)
After bribery schemes in Africa led the U.S. government to fine the new operator of Mount Sunapee Resort $412 million last year – one of the biggest penalties ever issued under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – the New Hampshire attorney general wants to hold a public information meeting about plans for the resort. - via Concord Monitor
Please contact us if you have related information to share or are looking for more information.
Commercial development, driven by powerful corporate interests, increasingly threatens public lands. At Mount Sunapee State Park, we must strongly resist the exploitation of our parkland for private financial gain.
Additionally, leaseholders at our state parks must demonstrate sound financial management and ethical practices that inspire public confidence and trust.
"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)
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.
Share your passion and expertise. FOMS is looking for help with its website and social media. Please contact us for more information about these and other volunteer opportunities. We'd love to hear from you.
Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort has submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) the Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for 2017-2018 for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The operator has "no major capital projects planned" for the spring and summer of 2017.
At a meeting of the Mount Sunapee (Ski Area) Advisory Committee on May 31, 2017, we expect that the resort operator will give a review of 2016-2017 and then discuss the recently released AOP and plans for the year ahead.
The AOP describes winter and summer activities and includes the resort's proposal for a new summer activity for the park: a "3-D Archery Course" with "12-15 animal targets located in a secluded and separated area of the South Peak Adventure Park." Few other details are provided.
See FOMS State Park Management and Policies page for official documents related to management of the ski area including prior operating plans.
Related FOMS post: Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee to meet May 31
Updated May 23, 2017
Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Dept. of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), has called for a meeting of the Mount Sunapee (Ski Area) Advisory Committee at the Newbury Town Offices, Route 103, Newbury, NH, on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at 9:30 am. The meeting is open to the public.
The Public Involvement and Oversight Policy for the Mount Sunapee ski area, developed by DRED, requires the operator of the ski area to submit an Annual Operating Plan (AOP) by May 15. The oversight policy provides guidelines for the AOP. See below.
We expect Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort to discuss this year's proposed AOP and report on 2016/2017 activities on May 31. We encourage Friends to attend. For more information, please contact us.
The DRED commissioner (Jeffrey Rose) chairs the Advisory Committee and its members include the Director of the NH Division of Parks and Recreation (Phil Bryce) and representatives from the Division of Forests and Lands (Sabrina Stanwood), Dept. of Environmental Services (Timothy Drew), Dept. of Transportation, towns of Newbury (Dan Wolfe) and Goshen (Melanie Bell), Lake Sunapee Protective Association (June Fichter), Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce, Society for the Protection of NH Forests (Nancy Marashio), and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission.
The AOP for 2016-2017 is available here: MSR-AOP 2016-2017 (pdf 7.7MB)
The Annual Operating Plan (AOP) will be subject to the following standards:
• The AOP shall allow public access to the leased premises for recreational and park activities.
• The AOP shall be submitted on or before May 15 of each year.
• DRED shall require the AOP to be submitted to the Mount Sunapee Ski Area Advisory Committee and the Town of Newbury for review.
• The AOP shall describe in detail the following:
a) Types of recreational activities available to the public
b) Ski lift operations
c) Snowmaking and grooming operations
d) Ski support services
e) Maintenance procedures
f) Security procedures
g) Emergency operating plan
h) Status of special use permits and leases
i) Marketing and advertising
j) Environmental management program
l) Utilities and roads
m) Implementation of MDP site improvements (after approval)
• DRED shall notify the Operator in writing of a final schedule of operation no later than June 30th of each year.
Experienced campers know that New Hampshire is prime camping country. The Granite State is known for spectacular vistas, serene woodland settings, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and nothing gets you closer to these scenic wonders than camping.
Under the stars, nestled in a tent or parked at the junction of civilization and nature camping is the jumping off point to a vacationer’s smorgasbord of rest, relaxation, and adventure.
For some, camping is the main event; for others, camping is a starting point. New Hampshire offers campers a huge variety in terms of campgrounds and vacation activities. A free New Hampshire Camping Guide, published by the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association (NeHaCa), is available in hard copy or electronic version.
A free New Hampshire Camping Guide, published by the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association (NeHaCa), is available in hard copy or electronic version. Visit www.ucampnh.com for more information.
For the Mount Sunapee State Park campground, visit:
Photos courtesy of the New Hampshire Campground Owners' Association.
The March For Science and the People's Climate Movement continues with the People's Climate Rally on Saturday, April 29th! The New Hampshire People's Climate March in Concord starts at 9:00 AM at the State House Lawn, 107 North Main Street.
FOMS is a supporter and will have a presence tabling. If you can help at the People's Climate Rally on Saturday, please contact us.
And here are other ways people can help now:
- Make plans to attend the rally, reach out to family and friends and invite them to join you.
- Organize a carpool to Concord for the event or to a sister rally.
- Gather with friends and make posters, so they are ready to go on Saturday.
- Share event information and photos on social media.
The Newbury Planning Board will hold a work session to discuss and review information concerning the town's 2017 Master Plan update on Tues., May 2, 2017, at the Town Office Building, 937 Route 103, Newbury. The board will also discuss proposed amendments to Site Plan and Subdivision Regulations.
The town is updating its 2007 master plan. The public input process began with a community survey and two public forums in 2016. The first forum, Envision Newbury 2027, was held in June 2016. (A program slide shown.) The second forum, conducted in August 2016, focused on "future land use." The planning board will hold a public hearing to present the plan once completed.
See/view: envision_newbury_2027_forum_1_2016 (pdf 8MB)
Background info: What is a Master Plan? See Master Planning in NH (pdf 736kb) or visit the NH Office of Energy and Planning website https://www.nh.gov/oep/planning/resources/master-planning.htm
Our goal is to maintain our region’s essential qualities of clean air and water, large forest tracts and open lands, wildlife, and their habitats, and the traditional methods of enjoying these resources. We advocate for local land use measures, regional planning practices, and land protection initiatives that safeguard livable and healthy communities.
(Updated April 22, 2017)
In early April 2017, CNL Lifestyle Properties closed the deal to liquidate its assets including the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park. Och-Ziff purchased CNL’s remaining 14 ski properties for a reported $374.5 million.
CNL, a Florida-based real estate investment trust, acquired the lease to the state-owned ski area from Okemo's parent company in 2008 and the state approved the lease assignment at that time.
What next? DRED says: “When [a lease] assignment request is made, it will be reviewed by the DRED Commissioner, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, followed by a recommendation to the Governor and Executive Council.”
People's Climate Movement - Marches and rallies on April 29, 2017
We need to stand together to protect our climate, our health, and our communities. It’s also crucial that we build a vision of the world we want, and rise together to make it possible.
To find a Climate Movement rally near you, visit the ActionNetwork.org
In April (2016) Governor Hassan and the N.H. Executive Council approved a lease amendment that allows resort expansion and development of a West Bowl ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.
No "West Bowl" projects are contained in the Annual Operating Plan (AOP) recently submitted by Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort to N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development. The AOP for 2016-2017 and update on hiking trails will be discussed at a meeting of the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee on June 23rd. FOMS encourages the public to attend.
Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee Meeting
When: Thursday, June 23 (2016) at 10 a.m.
Where: Newbury Town Offices, Route 103 - Large Conference Room
View the agenda: MSAC-6-23-16-Agenda (pdf)
Read the Annual Operating Plan 2016-2017 (pdf 7.7MB)
The AOP for the coming year says "no major capital projects" are planned; all projects “are maintenance projects." Adding a mountain bike trail to the "Adventure Park" is anticipated.
The AOP references numerous DRED approved improvements not yet completed. These projects include improvements within the current leasehold area to ski trails, lifts, buildings, snow-making and infrastructure.
AOP reports sharp decline in 2015-16 skier visits
Last season’s so-called “no-snow winter” and record breaking warm temperatures in the Northeast melted away snow-making budgets and shortened the ski season by weeks.
The ski area at Mount Sunapee closed for the season on March 27th and the resort reported 179,000 skier visits, a 30% decline from the prior season. Ski days numbered 113 last winter vs. 143 open days in 2014-2015.
The AOP provided no revenue figures and did not reveal visitation numbers for non-skiing activities. The resort promotes a “summer activities” program and operates the lodges and facilities within the leasehold area year round for a variety of special functions, which now include rental of lodge space and facilities for private use.
The AOP, once again, recycles grossly outdated information pointing to 1998 wildlife habitat mapping and omits critical studies that document ecologically valuable resources at the state park and within and surrounding the ski area.
The state's oversight policy for the ski area requires (submission to DRED and the Town of Newbury) an annual operating plan, which is due each year by May 15th. The plan is normally presented at a public meeting in late May or early June. This year, the plan will be presented and discussed with the Advisory Committee only seven days before the June 30th due date for DRED’s written response.
Read the Public Involvement and Oversight Policy 1998 (pdf)
FOMS encourages public participation and openness in all policy-making processes that determine the future of our state park and our region.
March 17, 2106, DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose released and approved a revised five-year plan for Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort at Mount Sunapee State Park. See the DRED website for the plan, maps and associated documents, including the proposed lease amendment requiring Governor and Executive Council action.
See the DRED website for plans and related documents --
See related reporting via NHPR --
See FOMS reponse --
Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources and Economic Development, is expected to release a revised five year plan for Mount Sunapee at a public meeting of the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee on Thursday, March 17, 2016. The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the Newbury Town Offices, Route 103.
Please join friends of Mount Sunapee State Park at this important public meeting.
Click on image for larger view.
Members of the hiking community around Mount Sunapee put their enthusiasm for a popular trail to Lake Solitude to work and quickly helped the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests (Forest Society) raise funds to conserve the property where the trail begins.
The Forest Society purchased the 33-acre trailhead property, off Mountain Road in Newbury, in order to protect access to the Andrew Brook Trail, said Jane Difley, the Forest Society’s president/forester.
“So many people who love this trail assumed that the trailhead was part of Mount Sunapee State Park, but in fact it was privately owned and therefore vulnerable when it came up for sale,” Difley said. “Now that the Forest Society owns it, public access is protected, and we want to thank the fans of this trail for helping to secure it.”
The Andrew Brook Trail is a 2-mile ascent up Andrew Brook on the eastern side of Mt. Sunapee to Lake Solitude, a pristine pond surrounded by conifers. It then meets up with other trails leading to the scenic White Ledges area and to Mount Sunapee’s peak. Read more...
Register for this year's Green Eggs & NH Environmental Policy Breakfast via Eventbrite:
View/download: Southern NH Climate Assessment 2014 (pdf 5Mb)
A new Greenway Super Map is now available from the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club. Price: $10.00. The full color map (18 x 24 in size) includes all trail highlights of the Greenway, from Mount Monadnock to Pitcher Mountain on side one, and Pitcher Mountain to Mount Sunapee on the other side. All feeder trails on Mount Monadnock, Mount Sunapee and in Pillsbury State Park are included, as are section mileages, shelter locations, trail history, water source locations, GPS coordinates for all points of interest, and more.
For ordering information, visit the trail club website store at www.msgtc.org/store
The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club (MSGTC) is a non-profit organization that formed in 1994. It's mission includes trail maintenance efforts along the 48-mile hiking trail and to provide support for their volunteers and trail adopters, and to promote awareness of the natural beauty of The Greenway.
Thanks to a new partnership between Sullivan County (NH) and the Wellborn Ecology Fund, schools and teachers looking to increase environmental education for their students will find help from the Sullivan County Conservation District in Unity.
A $25,000 grant from the Wellborn Ecology Fund to Sullivan County resulted in the creation of an Environmental Education & Outreach Specialist to provide environmental education support to schools in Sullivan County.
The goal of the County’s Environmental Education Specialist is to incorporate place-based ecology education into everyday learning. Read more...
Check out this video THANK YOU, an inspiring look back at 2015 made possible by FOMS volunteers and friends.
When the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests (Forest Society) posted on Facebook a plan to buy a property in Newbury that hosts the trailhead of a hiking route to Lake Solitude on Mt. Sunapee, hikers who know the Andrew Brook Trail responded quickly.
They posted phrases like “Love this hike,” “One of my favorite spots” and “Best way to hike Sunapee.”
“Those posts told us we were working on a project that would make a lot of people very happy,” said Jane Difley, the Forest Society’s president/forester.
There are three major hiking trails on Mt. Sunapee, but only one, the Summit Trail, is entirely within Mt. Sunapee State Park. The Andrew Brook Trail is one of two others that cross private land before entering permanently protected land in the state park. Access to the trailhead has been at the generosity of the landowner and could be denied by any future landowner.
The Forest Society offered to buy the land, 33 acres off of Mountain Road in Newbury, when it came up for sale recently, and has a purchase-and-sales agreement with the landowner. First, however, the organization must raise $110,000 to cover the purchase, legal fees and future stewardship costs.
“We are reaching out to the hiking community and friends and neighbors in the Newbury area to ask for their support of our plan to protect the trailhead,” Difley said.
The Andrew Brook Trail ascends along Andrew Brook and climbs through a beech, birch and maple forest for two miles before reaching Lake Solitude, a pristine pond surrounded by conifers. It then connects to the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway’s 75-mile trail system and continues to the scenic cliffs of the White Ledges area and Mt. Sunapee’s summit.
“Most hikers of these heavily used trails have no idea that only the generosity of a private landowner allows access to the State Park,” said Gerry Gold, of the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway Coalition. “Thus it is a rare opportunity when the hikers and the hiking community have an opportunity to help purchase such important access and permanently protect that access for themselves and future generations of hikers.”
In 2006, the Forest Society led a campaign to purchase a conservation easement on 1,100 acres of land on the eastern slope of Mt. Sunapee. This easement protects the middle section of the Andrew Brook Trail and was a collaboration celebrated by partners including the Newbury Conservation Commission, Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew, the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, Friends of Mount Sunapee and the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway.
In 2010 the Goubert family of Sunapee donated 75 acres of land next to the 33-acre property the Forest Society now seeks to buy.
Difley said the property’s value for hiking is the most obvious reason to protect it, but it also contains hardwood forest that protects water quality of Andrew Brook and several feeder streams, and it provides excellent wildlife habitat. She said the organization is seeking to raise the money necessary to complete the project by Jan. 20.
More information about the project and how to donate, visit www.forestsociety.org.
The Forest Society is seeking your help to permanently protect the trailhead of the Andrew Brook Trail, a favorite hiking trail to Lake Solitude and the White Ledges at Mt. Sunapee State Park.
Download/view Andrew Brook Trailhead flyer 12-14-15 (2MB)
"The owner of a 33-acre property that hosts the trailhead, off Newbury’s Mountain Road, has agreed to sell it to the Forest Society. Now we must raise the $110,000 needed to acquire the land, cover transaction costs, improve the trailhead and steward the property, and we hope you will give a donation to help," the society release states.
The Andrew Brook Trail is beloved by many hikers as a sweet ascent along a babbling brook that you rock hop across as you climb through a beech, birch and maple forest. It climbs for two miles before reaching Lake Solitude, a pristine pond surrounded by conifers. It then continues to the White Ledges area on the way to Mt. Sunapee’s summit.
Additionally, conserving this parcel will help protect water quality of Andrew Brook and feeder streams in the area, provide high-quality wildlife habitat and enlarge the surrounding block of conserved land including the Andrew Brook Forest and Sunapee and Pillsbury state parks.
"In 2006, the Forest Society led a campaign to purchase a conservation easement on 1,100 acres of land on the eastern slope of Mt. Sunapee," states the Forest Society. "This easement protects the middle section of the Andrew Brook Trail and was a huge collaborative success celebrated by partners including the Newbury Conservation Commission, Highlanders, the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, Friends of Mt. Sunapee and the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway. The trailhead, however, remained in private ownership and unprotected, and it has now been put up for sale."
For more information, contact Susanne Kibler-Hacker at the Forest Society, 603-224-9945, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy stunning, soaring views over New Hampshire via "To Be A Bird." This video by Kris Roller captures the autumn landscape and precious mountain and watershed lands... including Mount Sunapee. At 20 seconds, you'll find yourself flying over Mount Sunapee and taking in breathtaking views of Lake Solitude and beyond. Take flight via ---
Congratulations to trailworker, mentor and crew chief, Craig Sanborn, who was recently recognized for his "commitment to service and the tradition of volunteerism" with a 2015 Spirit of New Hampshire Award.
Craig is a dedicated worker and advocate for our public hiking trails including those on Mount Sunapee.
As crew chief of the Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew, Craig celebrated 30 years of trail tending by welcoming new members, who learned the skills and turned out to have fun building dozens of new fixtures on Mounts Cardigan, Sunapee, and Kearsarge.
We tend 10 miles of hiking trail on the Cardigan range and 5 miles on Mount Sunapee. We see to the routine preventive Level 1 upkeep: clean 140 drains spring and fall, trim back the brush, paint the blazes that mark trails for hikers, and remove fallen trees. After 30 years we know how often to attend these chores, so our trails are almost always in good condition. We also build all the Level 2 fixtures on these trails: steps, waterbars, retaining walls, bridges, signs etc.
- 6 rock waterbars on Sunapee's Rim Trail, which now has 20 drains in its half mile length;
- a 20' bridge with the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club on a MSGTC maintained trail; and
- a 12' bridge (at State request) that required hauling PT lumber 1/4 mile up the Barlow Trail on Mt. Kearsarge at Winslow State Park.
The NH Wildlife Action Plan has been updated and there is new data and information now available including new Wildlife Habitat maps. Check out NH Fish & Game for town maps showing the "highest ranked wildlife habitat by eccological condition."
The 2015 Wildlife Action Plan is a blueprint for conserving Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats in New Hampshire. New Hampshire's Plan identifies 169 SGCN, which represent a broad array of wildlife, and it focuses on the 27 habitats that support these species, such as lowland spruce-fir forest, salt marsh, shrublands, warm water lakes and ponds, vernal pools, and many others. - NH Fish and Game via http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/wap.html
F&G is hosting workshops around the state to explain what's new in the 2015 plan. Registration information is available via: www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/wap-events.html.
Share your interest in protecting important wildlife habitat on and around Mount Sunapee. Contact FOMS.
Trail work will continue on Saturday, August 1 (2015) on the Rim Trail at Mount Sunapee State Park. The tasks at hand include building rock steps and drains and whatever other trail work is possible, according to Craig Sanborn of the Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew.
"We'll work safe and build good durable fixtures following the guidelines in the Appalachian Trail Fieldbook. If enough people attend, we'll orient a crew using rope puller and rigging to move rock on straight pulls," Sanborn said. Participants are asked to reference the AT Fieldbook, "please read page 13 and pp. 52-71. Then, bring them with you to help others learn."
"Please don't avoid this day just because you haven't done rock work before," added Sanborn. "Anyone willing to try can learn to move and set them safely, using picks, shovels, crowbars, and webbing, etc."
For more information about volunteering with the Cardigan Highlanders, email Craig Sanborn at email@example.com.
Volunteers interested in helping out on August 1st, email Sanborn prior to Saturday morning.
Weather permitting, the Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew will be working on Mount Sunapee on Saturday, July 11. This will be a day in the woods, along the Newbury and Rim trails, building rock steps, waterbars, and drainage dips that will hopefully allow for the opening of a new trail section on a gentle/moderate grade that bypasses a steep section of old trail, according to crew chief Craig Sanborn.
"Anyone can learn to build these fixtures, and in the process make a valuable contribution to more sustainable trails," says Sanborn.
"We emphasize safety, job quality and fun playing in the dirt with your friends."
To get more information and to volunteer (sign up required) email Craig Sanborn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See related website: Hike Safe :: It's your responsibility
The Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew starts its summer season of trail work on Sunday, June 28, at Mount Sunapee State Park. The crew will get a ride up the summit chairlift and then hike the Solitude Trail, break at White Ledges, and hike down to Andrew Brook Trail. Crew chief Craig Sanborn said the work is to "trim brush and clean drains as we hike. Fix and add rock pavers and drains, and rock steps on steep slopes, until we decide to call it a day." The total hike is 3.2 miles all downhill. Heaviest tools are 10-lb 4' rock bars, shovel, pick, loppers, saws, hand pruners, and webbing, etc. If weather requires cancellation, it will be announced by email to those who signed up to work. For more information and to volunteer, email Craig Sanborn at email@example.com.
Enjoy and explore the Summit Trail at Mount Sunapee State Park. The SooNipi Magazine, always a fun and informative read, delivers in its summer (2015) issue an article that takes you for a hike up the Summit Trail. Learn what makes this area of our state park so special and why this favorite hiking trail is now at risk! Read (download/view):
You can pick up the SooNipi at various distribution sites in West-Central New Hampshire, or download/view the article by clicking on the link above.
For some, Mount Sunapee State Park conjures up images of alpine skiing. For many others, however, the park represents a smorgasbord of outdoor recreation opportunities - including hiking, hunting, nature study, backpacking, snowshoeing, and more. All are available at no cost in our public park. The Summit Hiking Trail on Mount Sunapee’s west flank offers access to all of the aforementioned non-skiing activities, and is a personal favorite...
The Summit Hiking Trail lies directly in the path of the proposed western expansion of the ski area. As currently planned, the hiking trail will be bisected at least half a dozen times by new ski slopes, and a new lift line will be gouged out of the heart of the ancient forest community. The closed forest canopy will now feature ski runs, towers for a ski lift, and pipelines and guns for snowmaking. The trail will still be there, possibly re-routed, but the peaceful woodland hike that exists today will be changed forever. - "Hiking Mount Sunapee's Summit Trail" by Gary Stansfield
To learn how you can help protect the Summit Trail, contact FOMS today!
Friends of Mount Sunapee is a broad coalition of skiers and school teachers, farmers and foresters, hikers and hunters, business owners and backpackers, artists and attorneys, nurses and nature photographers. We outnumbered the proponents by 3:1 at the recent public hearing, and our numbers are growing every day. We will not be silent. We will not go away. We will not allow one of the crown jewels of our state park system to be degraded by resort development to facilitate financial gain for a select few. Allowing this expansion runs contrary to the 100 year effort to protect a large mosaic of conservation land in and around Mount Sunapee State Park. - Gary Stansfield, Friends of Mount Sunapee
Representatives of the New Hampshire Sierra Club and the Friends of Mount Sunapee, joined by other concerned citizens, delivered more than 1,900 comments and signatures opposing ski resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park to Governor Hassan and Commissioner Rose on June 4, following a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.
Speakers at the press conference included Chapter Director Catherine Corkery, NH Sierra Club; Chapter President Jerry Curran, NH SC; FOMS representative Gary Stansfield; Deb Flanders, a ski racing coach and former member of the US National Ski Team; business owner Kathy Hubert; and civic leader and former Newport selectman John Lunn.
Representatives of the New Hampshire Sierra Club and the Friends of Mount Sunapee, joined by other concerned citizens, delivered more than 1,900 comments and signatures opposing ski resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park to Governor Hassan and Commissioner Rose on June 4, following a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord. (Shown here.)
The two groups began working together after the 'draft decision' by Commissioner Rose (Department of Resources and Economic Development) recommended the 'West Bowl' expansion at Mount Sunapee. The Sierra Club and FOMS worked together during the last iteration of a similar proposal 10 years ago and recently joined forces to bring greater awareness to the plan and DRED's public comment period ending on June 5, 2015.
The draft Mount Sunapee master plan would allow for a 150-acre ‘West Bowl’ expansion of the ski area and allow the operator to retain ownership of the committed land until 2028, with an additional 10 years added to the current lease term. Provisions of the plan would enable real estate development by the operator on land adjacent to the expanded ski area and the park.
The plan conditionally approves land “donations” to the state of 208 acres of land along the Sunapee Highlands, land previously protected by a public funded conservation easement, and grants mitigation with another land “donation” of 52 acres near the summit. The plan allows for construction of a ‘mountain coaster’ near the center of the park; fragmentation of state designated and state protected exemplary forest and direct impacts to the only four-season public hiking/snowshoe trail (Summit Trail) on the west side of the state park.
Unacceptable terms in the proposal relate to environmental, economic and public trust and public policy issues.
Commissioner Rose has not indicated when he will announce his final recommendation.
The Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee webpage: https://www.nhstateparks.org/industry/commissions-and-committees/mount-sunapee-advisory-committee.aspx
FOMS supporters will want to attend this important public meeting of the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at 9:30 a.m., at the Newbury Town Offices (large conference room), Route 103, Newbury.
Discussion will include input from advisory committee members on the Mount Sunapee master development plan and environmental management plan now under consideration by DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose.
The major component of the 2105-2019 plan is the "West Bowl" expansion -- ski-resort development that will cut through state-designated "exemplary forest" and extend down Mount Sunapee's undeveloped western slopes in Goshen. A hearing was held May 5 to get public comment on the commissioner's draft decision (released in April) that recommended moving the project forward. At the hearing, most people including FOMS spoke against the expansion and several people expressed strong opposition to the commissioner's 'conditional approval' for construction of a 'mountain (roller) coaster' to be located at the resort, in the center of the park.
Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort will also present its proposed Annual Operating Plan at the meeting.
View the agenda: MSAC Agenda 2015 June 2 (pdf 20kb)
View the MSAC webpage at: https://www.nhstateparks.org/get-involved/commissions-committees/mount-sunapee-advisory-committee.aspx
For more information, contact FOMS.
Newbury, NH, resident Steve Russell testifies at the May 2015 public hearing at Mount Sunapee State Park that the proposed resort expansion is in conflict with the public interest and the mission of the NH state park system. NOTE: Footage was provided by YCN News, but any edits are our own.
Former Chair of the Goshen NH Planning Board John Wirkkala testifies against the proposed West Bowl expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park at the May 2015 public hearing. NOTE: Footage was provided by YCN News, but any edits are our own.
We believe that the proposed resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park is a violation of public trust and represents negligent planning and irresponsible use of our most valued natural resources. We implore the decision makers—NH Governor Hassan, Executive Councilors, and Commissioner Rose of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED)—to protect NH’s public lands and the natural environment and deny resort expansion at Mount Sunapee.Time is of the essence.
Reported by Nancy A. Cavanaugh, May 7, 2015, for Eagle Times ---
Read via http://eagletimes.villagesoup.com/p/mount-sunapee-expansion-largely-opposed-at-public-hearing/1343450
NEWBURY — The lodge at Mount Sunapee was teeming with residents from around the region as the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) held a public hearing for the proposed expansion of the ski area. The hearing was led by Nate Miller, executive director of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, and Jeff Rose, commissioner of DRED. After introductions were made, Rose addressed the 200 or so people gathered at the main lodge...
During the public hearing, 81 of the more than 150 people in attendance spoke. They were each allowed two minutes to express their opinion. Of those who spoke, 59 were opposed and 21 were in favor.
Concerns over the environmental impacts of the construction and use of the land, the loss of hiking trails, the dubious economic benefits to the area, additional expenditures by the towns and the threat of condominiums were also expressed.
Holly Flanders, a two time Olympian who was the director of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, spoke against the draft plan....
A 15-year-old from New London was also against the expansion. “It is not going to do anything to get my peers to come here. We think it is the stupidest idea out there,” he said.
Most speakers (70%+) including many residents from Newbury, Goshen and Sunapee rose in opposition to resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park at last night's four-hour public hearing. Commissioner Rose (Dept. of Resources and Economic Development) called for the May 5 hearing at the park to accept public comment on his 'draft decision' that recommends (with conditions) resort expansion at Mount Sunapee.
Speakers, one after another, challenged many aspects of the commissioner's draft response. Many said that resort expansion represents bad economic planning and bad use of our most valued natural resources, and is a violation of public trust.
Speakers asked for better planning and parkland protection and cited a range of concerns from economic to environmental. Others called for protection of the Summit Hiking trail, more balanced use of the park, and preservation of the primeval and exemplary forest on the west side of the mountain, which is now threatened by resort expansion.
See the Union Leader (4/6/2015) article - Dan Seufert reported:
"About 150 residents of area towns crowded the Sunapee Lodge at the base of the Mount Sunapee Resort Tuesday night, most arguing against a proposed expansion of the state-owned ski area. A large number of speakers said the success of the resort has not improved the local economy....:"
Read more via: www.unionleader.com/article/20150506/NEWS0606/150509542
Read Eagle Times: ‘Mount Sunapee expansion largely opposed at public hearing’
What's Wrong With the Proposed Mt. Sunapee Expansion?
by Gary Stansfield
DRED Commissioner Rose finally released his draft decision on Mount Sunapee Resort's expansion proposal. Quite frankly, it wasn't worth the wait. The draft approval is a losing proposition for the public. What's so wrong about the decision? Nearly everything.
Allowing this expansion runs contrary to the 100 year effort to protect a large mosaic of conservation land in and around Mount Sunapee State Park.
The "gifts" of land that the state will receive from the resort owners under this deal are rather paltry. The 260 acres of conservation land that will be "gifted" consist of 208 acres that were already protected in 1990, using public funds, when the Land Conservation Investment Program purchased a conservation easement on the property. Another 52 acres, high on the mountain's ridge is also included in the scheme. In accepting these parcels, the state will effectively be receiving land that they already paid to protect, is commercially worthless, and they will be relieving the resort owners of a property tax liability. Some gift.
In addition, in 2028, the state will receive the 150 acres that narrowly encompass the new ski infrastructure. In the meantime, DRED will allow the resort to retain this acreage to allow the developers to "meet local density requirements and other permitting and/or mitigation requirements." This last phrase clearly indicates the resort's intentions to pursue residential and commercial development on the hundreds of acres of abutting land they retain in this sweetheart deal. In doing so they will surely adopt the same paradigm they've employed at their other ski resorts such as Okemo and Crested Butte: The real profits in the ski industry are found at the bottom of the mountain. The ski facilities are merely a "loss leader" designed to "lure the marks to the carnival", and to keep the skier's dollars in the resort owners pockets (and out of the businesses in surrounding communities) by selling add-ons like time share condos, dining, equipment and apparel. This is the accepted business model in the ski industry.
The resort owners will be glad to eventually give up ownership of the ski infrastructure in exchange for exclusive rights to develop a slope side ski village in Goshen. Meanwhile, Goshen, a small town with volunteer regulatory boards incapable of withstanding the onslaught of the corporate steamroller, will be flattened just as quickly as the trees in the path of the development.
Speaking of trees, DRED's draft decision boldly ignores NH state law by allowing new ski infrastructure to gouge a swath through the heart of a documented exemplary forest community that hosts trees over 300 years old.
The plan, while boasting of preserving diverse recreational opportunities in the park, allows the developers to bulldoze through the popular Summit Hiking Trail in six different places. This trail serves as free, public access to hikers, hunters, nature lovers, backpackers and others.
And if all of the above isn't ridiculous enough for you, it gets more absurd. DRED has approved the construction of a mountain coaster, a roller coaster on wheels, in the state park. Okemo already sports a mountain coaster, appropriately and ironically, dubbed, "The Timber Ripper".
Rose's approval addresses these issues and many more by using weak reasoning and employing bureaucratic double-speak in an attempt to convince the public that this is a good deal for New Hampshire. It simply is not.
It is a great deal for the resort owners, their investors, and a handful of special interests. The rest of us are left with an impoverished natural landscape, diminished quality of life, and a battered remnant of a state park. No thanks, Commissioner Rose.
Please attend the public hearing on May 5, at 6:00PM at the Park, and raise your voice in opposition to this state facilitated give-away of OUR state park.
Now is no time to be silent.
Please Attend - Add Your Voice To Protect Mount Sunapee State Park and NH's Public Lands
At this Important
PUBLIC HEARING on MAY 5 at 6 PM
Where: Mount Sunapee State Park, Sunapee Lodge, Newbury
During the Public Comment Period
A Disney style amusement ride -- a mountain coaster, which Okemo calls its “Timber Ripper” in Vermont -- maybe coming to Mount Sunapee State Park. The agency that oversees NH parks recently approved a rollercoaster for Sunapee that will cut into and further diminish the wooded land near the base of the mountain.
A roller coaster at our jewel of a mountain state park? Have they no shame? Apparently not! - Gary, an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast.
It looks we're on a fast ride downhill that turns our precious parkland into a common theme park. One has to ask: What next for our New Hampshire state parks! - Cathy from Sunapee
Mt. Sunapee Public Hearing
Help protect the integrity of Mount Sunapee State Park. Add your voice at the Mt. Sunapee Public Hearing on May 5 (6pm). Location: Mount Sunapee State Park, Sunapee Lodge, Newbury, NH.
For more info and to see how you can help, Contact FOMS.
Concord Monitor Column: My Turn - April 25,2015
by Deb Flanders
As an avid skier, who grew up on the slopes of Mt. Sunapee, I find the draft decision from NH’s Department of Resources and Economic Development allowing the Mt. Sunapee Resort to expand to the west to be unacceptable. I know there are many others who are also against the encroachment on our State Park and it is time to take a stand. Please come to DRED’s public hearing at Mt. Sunapee State Park on May 5, at 6 PM, and stand up and voice your opposition! Please write letters and copy all of your legislators.
DRED’s decision includes the mandate for the resort to turn over to the state the 150 acres of private land currently owned by the resort operators (the Muellers), including “all land that would incorporate all facilities necessary to operate the ski area”. In theory, that would seem to mitigate the problems associated with the building of a public facility on private lands, however, the lands do not have to be transferred until 2028! Would that mean that public/private ownership of the lands can exist for 13 more years, to benefit the Muellers?
The Muellers would still retain 250 acres that abut the expansion area, and if they want to develop that land there is little to stop them. In fact, DRED's arrangement allows the developer to use the 150 acres to meet local "density" requirements. This clearly paves the way for residential development.
We can look to the town of the town of Ludlow, Vermont, at the base of Okemo, which has changed tremendously since the early 80’s when the Muellers came to town and started building lifts and on-hill condo units.
- Property taxes more than doubled when Ludlow became a “donor town” due to increase in property values. Homes were bought by out-of-staters because the locals could no longer afford to buy them.
- Okemo lawyers lobbied for and got the residential density requirement misconstrued from its original one acre zoning per residence (meaning one family) to one acre per residence which could house a 100 unit development.
- Most locals cannot afford to ski, or play golf. Most small businesses in Ludlow are gone, locals shop in Claremont or Rutland.
- Okemo lawyers had kept pushing to amend permits, relentlessly going for special exceptions on density and height, visibility and landscaping.
This could happen here. Money talks. It would seem that the state of NH is in collusion with the Mt. Sunapee resort owners as DRED suggests rewarding the resort for the 10 years that the operator and the state have been in court discussing boundary issues, by adding another 10 years to the lease, free of charge, which would bring it out to 2028.
After living in several western resort towns, I saw first hand how the character of beautiful mountain towns was changed dramatically when ski corporations turned to real estate investments and started creating theme park diversions such as ziplines, roller coasters, indoor waterparks, Frisbee golf courses and other devices to enhance their own wallet , despite the environmental degradation involved.
Herbert Welsh, the father of land conservation on Mt. Sunapee, worked to “Save Mount Sunapee for all people for all time!” Now it is our turn! Please go to www.friendsofmountsunapee.org for more information.
Deb Flanders is a avid skier and hiker and lives in Newbury, N.H.
Mount Sunapee Alert: On May 5, DRED will hold a Public Hearing on its amended plan that will allow private resort expansion at Mount Sunapee. Hearing time and location: May 5, 2015, (at 6 p.m.) at Mount Sunapee State Park (Mount Sunapee Resort, Sunapee Lodge), Rte.103, Newbury.
“A lot has changed since MDP/EMP [master plan] was first released last summer, and this is not a final document,” Commissioner Rose (DRED) said in a release made public at the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee on April 16. A public comment period is now open to allow for “comments, ideas, and suggestions to the proposal and conditions.”
DRED is recommending a plan with conditions that will allow the private resort (Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort) to expand across the state park boundary onto the operator's private land into Goshen. The resort will be allowed to develop and retain ownership until 2028 of 150 acres of expanded ski terrain and associated resort development. The operator will then transfer the land to the state, for inclusion to the state park, by the end of the first lease term, which DRED wants to extend by ten years to 2028.
The plan does not describe the scale and scope of the project beyond a five-year window, nor the build out anticipated for the operator's other land on the mountain, 250 acres that will encompass the new ski terrain on three sides.
Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources of Economic Development, has called for a public hearing on the agency’s draft decision and amended Master Development Plan and Environmental Management Plan (2015-2019) for Mount Sunapee Resort.
The Public Hearing will be held on May 5, at 6 p.m. at Mount Sunapee State Park, Newbury. Written comment is due by June 5, 2015, at 4 p.m.
Mail to: Commissioner Jeffrey J. Rose
RE: Mt. Sunapee draft response
Dept Resources and Economic Development
172 Pembroke Road
PO Box 1856, Concord NH 03301
Email to: MountSunapeeComments@dred.nh.gov
Links to the DRED’s draft decision, MDP/EMP, and reference materials are available via the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee web page.
This Thursday, April 16th, is a moment of truth for Mount Sunapee State Park.
After nearly seven months of deliberation, the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) will reveal its draft response to the Sunapee ski area expansion before a public audience on Thursday morning in Newbury.
Many essential public assets are at stake, including "the most significant forest of its kind in New Hampshire south of the White Mountains."
Learn more about the threats and challenges facing Mount Sunapee State Park- and how you can help.
Please attend in person on Thursday.
Mount Sunapee Ski Area Advisory Committee Meeting
Thursday, April 16th at 10AM
At the Newbury Veteran's Hall (across from Newbury Town Offices), Rte. 103
Some important background information is included below:
In the early 1900s, Herbert Welsh, a summer resident of Sunapee, worked with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to preserve Mount Sunapee. At that time, logging threatened the mountain's ancient forest and natural beauty. In 1948, the state took over, formed Mount Sunapee State Park, and opened the ski area. Now, our state park and its remarkable natural heritage face a new threat from resort-driven private development.
The ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park is leased to CNL Lifestyle Properties, a Florida-based real estate investment trust. CNL and the operator, Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort, want to build out the resort west into Goshen, where Okemo/MSR own over 600 acres that abut the park.
In January 2015, DRED released a report by its own scientists that declared much of the land at the top of the mountain as an exemplary natural community, a rare and valuable natural area protected by NH law against any state-enabled encroachment or impact.
The proposed "West Bowl" expansion cuts right through this protected area, part of Mount Sunapee's remarkable natural heritage -- "the most significant forest of its kind in New Hampshire south of the White Mountains."
The threat to state and other protected lands
Mount Sunapee State Park was created by land purchased, gifted, and taken by eminent domain for public good, not private gain. The Friends of Mount Sunapee believes that cross border development is wrong for Mount Sunapee and wrong for our state; it will set a dangerous precedent for state lands across New Hampshire.
FOMS supports improving our state park. However, we oppose Okemo’s western expansion plan for Mount Sunapee, which opens the way to cross-border private development. This not only violates the mission of our park, but will diminish an ecologically important landscape—the Sunapee-Pillsbury Highlands.
Resort-driven real estate development will inevitably follow expansion and threaten the rural character of the communities in the mountain’s shadow. Additionally, other park uses and resources will be impacted. The expansion will destroy the current hiking experience now enjoyed along the Summit Trial, the only public hiking trail on the western side of the park, and it will cut into and diminish the park's remarkable natural heritage including rare ancient forest.
Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, will soon announce his draft response to a proposed master plan that includes resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park. The 2015-2019 master plan was released last summer by Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort, the operator and sub-lessee of the state-owned ski area. The ski area leaseholder is CNL Lifestyle Properties LLC, a Florida-based a real estate investment trust.
The commissioner will release his draft reply on Thursday, April 16 (2015) at a meeting of the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee. The meeting will be held at Veteran's Hall, Newbury (across from the Town Offices) at 10 a.m. Although open to the public, the meeting will not allow public comment, according to the agenda.
The public will be able to comment on the commissioner's draft response at a public hearing on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at 6 p.m. at Mount Sunapee Resort, Sunapee Lodge, at the State Park in Newbury.
Commissioner Rose will also seek written public comment due by June 5, 2015 (at 4 p.m.).
- To view/download the MSAC agenda for the April 16 meeting, click here.
- To view/download draft minutes from last MSAC meeting October 14, 2014, when members commented on the proposed master plan, click here.
Background: The master plan includes a major cross-border expansion that will extend ski trails/ski infrastructure and resort development across State Park forestland onto hundreds of acres of land privately owned by the resort operator.
Okemo/MSR offered this controversial plan—expansion into Goshen—previously, in two prior master plans (2005 and 2009). At the time, then-governor John Lynch refused to bring the project forward stating that expansion onto private land for condo development was inconsistent with our state parks.
For more info, see:
- Okemo's proposed plan for Mount Sunapee (MDP and EMP).
- FOMS pamphlet about the Resort's 2014 expansion plan.
- FOMS letter (2/2015) expressing strong opposition to the Resort's expansion plan
- Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee web page (via NH Parks and Recreation)
While the State considers a highly controversial proposal for expansion of the resort/ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park, the lessee CNL is considering an "exit strategy" that will maximize shareholder return.
The ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park is leased to a Florida-based real estate investment trust, CNL Lifestyle Properties, which is looking at an "exit strategy," according news reports.
ABC News reported (3/15/2015): "A real estate investment trust that's considering getting out of the snow business could sell more than a dozen ski resorts from Maine to California that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
"CNL Lifestyle Properties owns 16 resorts including Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, Bretton Woods, Loon Mountain and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Okemo Mountain in Vermont, Crested Butte in Colorado, Brighton in Utah, and Sierra-at-Tahoe in California."
Investment News reported (3/12/2015): "The estimated per share valuation of CNL Lifestyle Properties Inc., a large nontraded real estate investment trust, continues to sink despite the recent broad rally in commercial real estate.
CNL Lifestyle Properties, with $2.5 billion in total assets, on Tuesday said its board of directors unanimously approved a valuation of $5.20 per share as of the end of December, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Read more via...
Rutland Herald reported (3/19/2015): Okemo sale could be in the works
"CNL’s official statement.... said the sale is being considered in an effort to 'maximize return to shareholders upon its 2015 liquidity event,' though selling its skiing portfolio is just one possibility the company is considering. Listing the 16 ski properties on the stock exchange is another option CNL considers viable. The entire sale plan could still be scrapped, with CNL entertaining the idea of retaining its ownership rights."
Read more via... http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20150319/NEWS02/703199921
Share comments and other news reports on this topic via our Contact page.
This week in a letter (Feb. 23, 2105) to DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, the Forest Society addressed the proposed expansion at Mount Sunapee, stating in part:
- "Our review suggests that the Resort’s expansion proposal directly conflicts with the State’s legal obligation to protect exemplary natural communities."
- "In addition, ecologists we have consulted advise that the sustainability of this exemplary natural community system within the State Park is directly linked to what happens on land within the larger landscape."
- "The original reason that the Forest Society started protecting Mt. Sunapee in 1911, and assisted in its eventual transfer to the State, was to ensure that the ancient forests on its slopes be protected for posterity. As the current steward of this public treasure, DRED should continue the work started in 1911 and use its authority to sustain the ecological health of these forests within the State Park."
Read the letter in full via: www.forestsociety.org/feb-23-2015-letter-commissioner-rose
Download/view accompanying Forest Society maps via: www.forestsociety.org/resource/mount-sunapee-maps
February 23, 2015
Commissioner Jeffrey Rose
NH Department of Resources & Economic Development
172 Pembroke Road
PO Box 1856
Concord, NH 03302-1856
Dear Commissioner Rose:
This letter is to supplement the Forest Society’s written comments of September 22, 2014 concerning the proposed ski expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park. Since September there have been two new developments which inform our thinking on the issue at hand, the Mount Sunapee Resort proposal in its June 2014 Master Development Plan to expand its present ski operation at the State Park into the so-called “west bowl” of the Mountain, onto land within the State Park boundary and onto private land adjacent to the State Park.
The first new development concerns the lease reformation ordered by the Merrimack County Superior Court in April 2014, a map of which DRED publicly released for the first time last week. The second development is a new report from the DRED Natural Heritage Bureau released two weeks ago which depicts a system of ecologically significant natural communities within the State Park.
The significance of the court ordered lease reformation is that it adds 167 acres to the original 968 acre lease area (see Map 1 enclosed), acreage directly abutting private land owned by Resort operator Tim Mueller through a limited liability corporation known as Sunapee Land Holdings LLC. This new, larger lease area eliminates the buffer zone that previously existed between the original lease area and the State Park boundary. Some believe this opens the State Park to expanded skiing far beyond the intent and scope of the State’s original lease with the Resort.
We applaud you for asking the Natural Heritage Bureau to complete the analysis it started in 2004 on the ecology of the West Bowl area, and we thank you for sharing this addendum to the 2004 Bureau report with us. We have had an opportunity to review the Bureau’s work with our own staff and with independent ecologists. Our review suggests that the Resort’s expansion proposal directly conflicts with the State’s legal obligation to protect exemplary natural communities.
The significance of the Natural Heritage Bureau addendum to its 2004 survey of the west bowl area is that it for the first time delineates a 486 acre Exemplary Northern Hardwood-Conifer Forest Natural Community System (see Map 2 enclosed). The proposed ski expansion appears to directly encroach upon this system (see Map 3 enclosed). Furthermore, it appears that the existing ski operation has already encroached upon the exemplary natural community system as delineated (see Map 4). Clearly the upper third of the proposed expansion would significantly disrupt the exemplary system of natural communities on and around the summit of Mount Sunapee (see Map 5) within the State Park.
In addition, ecologists we have consulted advise that the sustainability of this exemplary natural community system within the State Park is directly linked to what happens on land within the larger landscape. The larger landscape (see Map 6) includes thousands of acres of conserved land within the Pillsbury –Sunapee Highlands region that has taken more than a century to establish. In part, these lands were protected to further enhance the forest resources growing on the topographic peak of the region, Mount Sunapee itself.
The NH Native Plant Protection Act (RSA 217-A:7) states that the State has an obligation to protect such exemplary systems of natural communities when actions are proposed that place the continuance of these communities in jeopardy. Because the decision concerning the Resort’s proposal is clearly in DRED’s authority, and because the impacted land is owned and managed by DRED as a State Park, it is essential for the State to act in a manner that conserves the exemplary system of natural communities identified by the Natural Heritage Bureau.
We continue to believe that there are a number of questions regarding the proposed ski expansion that remain unanswered, questions which we identified in our earlier comments. But the Natural Heritage Bureau’s recent report answers the open question concerning the forests of Mount Sunapee State Park. The original reason that the Forest Society started protecting Mt. Sunapee in 1911, and assisted in its eventual transfer to the State, was to ensure that the ancient forests on its slopes be protected for posterity. As the current steward of this public treasure, DRED should continue the work started in 1911 and use its authority to sustain the ecological health of these forests within the State Park.
Thank you for your consideration of these additional comments.
Jane A. Difley, President/Forester
cc: w/ enclosures:
Phil Bryce, Director, DRED Division of Parks & Recreation
Nancy Marashio, SPNHF Member of the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee
Brad Simpkins, Director, DRED Division of Forests & Lands
The State of N.H. is under no obligation to grant approval to the current expansion proposal at Mount Sunapee. When the State granted Okemo the operating lease to the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park, “future planning and improvements” were discussed in terms of being “made in peripheral areas surrounding the current lifts, trails and base area facilities.”
Ski area expansion, as now proposed by Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort, will breach the state park boundary and enable resort-real estate development on hundreds of acres privately owned by the resort operator in Goshen. Expansion beyond the lease area and outside the park was not part of the contract and, if approved, will be precedent setting for N.H. state parks.
No obligation to expand
"The New Hampshire Supreme Court itself weighed in, after years of legal wrangling, when it ruled in 2013 that the State was under no legal obligation under the 1998 lease to allow any expansion of the ski enterprise or the leased area," wrote Will Abbott in the current issue of Forest Notes (Winter 2015).
"The lawsuit leading to the court’s decision was filed by the Muellers in 2007, and it sought more than $13 million in damages from the State because then Gov. John Lynch refused to allow any agreement expanding the original lease to be brought before the Executive Council. In its ruling, the court dismissed the damage claim, on grounds that there was no state obligation to expand the lease and that it was the Governor’s constitutional prerogative to decide against bringing a proposed lease expansion to the council from the State’s Department of Resources and Economic Development (which is the state agency where the Division of Parks & Recreations is situated)."
Download Forest Notes, Winter 2015, via: www.forestsociety.org/forest-notes
Read Okemo's original proposal to the State via a download available here:
Okemo Proposal for the Operation of the Mount Sunapee Ski Area - 1998 April (pdf 2.2MB)
Related documents are available via FOMS State Park Policies & Management page
Additional Note: The Division of Forest and Lands recently confirmed "exemplary natural communities" in the proposed expansion area in the state park. The proposal's new trials, snow-making, and major lift, as now planned, will cut through and destroy this exemplary forest. This will violate state law.
Now is no time to be silent.
Add your voice to protect Mount Sunapee State Park and its essential public values and to preserve its rare forest ("exemplary natural communities"), as defined by New Hampshire Forests and Lands and protected by N.H. law.
Contact the decision makers.
Governor Maggie Hassan
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
|Phone - (603) 271-2121
Fax - (603) 271-7640
Contact Governor Hassan: www.governor.nh.gov/contact
Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources and Economic Development
|172 Pembroke Road
P.O. Box 1856
Concord, NH 03302-1856
DRED (Dept. of Resources and Economic Development) has released a revised map of the lease area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The map is based on the Merrimack Superior Court decision of July 8, 2014. According to the State website, DRED has filed the revised map with the Superior Court.
See: Revised Map Lease Area Mount Sunapee 2015 (pdf 713Kb) - Original lease line is shown (red dotted line).
In a decision that still mystifies many, including the Friends of Mount Sunapee, the Court found that the western and northern leasehold boundaries of the ski area are the same as the State Park boundaries.
The Concord Monitor, in its editorial "State should say no thanks to Sunapee" (December 28,2 2014), wrote:
"Nearly a decade ago, this paper’s editors met with the leaseholder and his team, scrutinized documents and maps, and debated their meaning. We were unanimous in our decision that their interpretation of the maps and lease history was self-serving and wrong. The state’s intent was always to retain a buffer of public land between the ski area and the park’s boundaries, and no right to expand was ever granted. Unfortunately, in a decision that mystified us, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smuckler disagreed."
See: Merrimack Superior Court Order - 2014 July 10 - Sunapee Difference, LLC vs. The State of New Hampshire (pdf 127Kb)
See related information via... https://www.friendsofmountsunapee.org/okemo-legal-brief-reveals-real-estate-intentions/
See related Letter to the Editor published in InterTown Record (Feb. 10, 2015)
FOMS phone: 603-863-0045
Downloadable via: FOMS Publications
By Jolyon Johnson
For Concord Monitor - February 7, 2015
A recent report by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau confirms the existence of “exemplary natural communities” on Mount Sunapee’s west flank.
The study, conducted in the autumn of 2014, not only confirmed the findings of the 2004 study, it also enlarged the area formally designated as exemplary at Mount Sunapee State Park. These forests are directly in the path of the proposed expansion of the ski area.
Exemplary natural communities are defined by their rarity, size, ecological condition and landscape context. In addition to being rare, these forests on Mount Sunapee are found at the northern edge of the 30,000-acre Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlands Corridor, increasing their ecological value. These forests contain large yellow birch, sugar maple and red spruce. Some of these trees exceed 200 years of age.
Even among trained ecologists, there is some argument over the exact definition of the term “old growth.” The resort operators along with their pro-expansion cadre have seized on this quibble, and while clearly shaken by the release of the NHB report, continue to cling to their mantra, “There is no old growth!” Call it what you will: old growth, primary, undisturbed, primeval forest or even “just some mature trees.” These folks are missing the point.
Yes, these forests on Mount Sunapee contain large, old, magnificent trees, but they are much more than that. These exemplary forests are ecological communities, a complex interplay of plants (both living and dead), animals (ranging from moose to microbes), fungi and soils that are not found in other, far more common forests that have been historically managed (i.e. logged) by humans. These unmanaged areas are the last remnants of the primeval forests that once covered much of this area prior to European settlement. These forests are living laboratories: valuable to forest scientists, for educational purposes, and for simple enjoyment by the public. And importantly, they occur in Mount Sunapee State Park, land conserved many years ago to protect these forests and held in the public trust.
The first priority of the state park system, according to state law (RSA 216-A:1), is: “To protect and preserve unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational and natural areas in the state.” Those who want to expand the ski area and degrade, fragment or destroy these exemplary forests can call them whatever they want. The point is, exemplary forests are protected under state law.
The NHB report quotes from the Native Plant Protection Act (RSA 217-A:7) stating that “actions funded or carried out by state agencies shall not jeopardize the continued existence of any protected plant species or exemplary natural community.” In layman’s terms, this is all very good news for our jewel of a state park and for maintaining the natural heritage and scenic beauty of the west side of Mount Sunapee.
The expansion as planned will jeopardize these exemplary communities. This will clearly be a violation of state law. No one can quibble about that. The Friends of Mount Sunapee asks Gov. Maggie Hassan and Commissioner Jeffrey Rose of the Department of Resources and Economic Development to end consideration of the proposed expansion and ask Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort to bring forth to the public a master development plan that stays within the existing ski area, leaves all identified exemplary forest areas untouched and limits its future projects to areas of the park already disturbed.
(Jolyon Johnson is president of Friends of Mount Sunapee.)
A. - It is important to understand that, even among forest ecologists, there is some debate over the definition of the term old growth. Quite frankly, the term can be a semantic trap. The resort operators are missing the point by focusing on the term.
The focus should be on the facts:
1) New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau (NHB) identified and documented the existence of exemplary forest communities directly in the path of the proposed expansion.
2) Because of this designation these forests are protected under state law (Native Plant Protection Act RSA 217- A:7).
3) These forests do contain large, magnificent, old trees. Some of the older trees within the mosaic of exemplary forest communities on Mount Sunapee have been found to be over 250 years of age. These ancient trees are part of an ecological community, a complex interplay of plants (both living and dead), animals (including microscopic organisms), fungi, and soils that are not found in other, far more common forests that have been historically managed (ie. logged) by humans. These unmanaged areas are the last remnants of the primeval forests that covered much of this area prior to European settlement.
4) The forests on Mount Sunapee are living laboratories, valuable to forest scientists, for educational purposes, and for simple enjoyment by the public. And, they occur in Mount Sunapee State Park, land protected many years ago and held in the public trust.
5) The first priority of the N.H. state park system according to state law (RSA 216-A:1) is “To protect and preserve unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational, and natural areas of the state.”
What better fits that mandate than these beautiful exemplary forest communities?
Figure 1 (above), included in the NHB study (1999) "Old Forests and Rare Plants at the Mount Sunapee Ski Lease Area," illustrates the reservation's forest history on Mount Sunapee.
The reports states: "The original purchase of 656 acres in 1911 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests was initiated to protect land from extensive logging which started in 1906 (Ayres19150). By 1934, SPNHF owned 1,185 acres, including cut-over and old growth forests. In, 1948, the state took ownership of the mountain and opened the Mount Sunapee State Park with a ski area on the north face of the mountain (MacAskill 1981)." - NH Natural Heritage Bureau (1999)
New Hampshire Forest & Lands confirmed this week the existence of exemplary natural communities on Mount Sunapee State Park’s west flank, directly in the path of the proposed expansion.
This is very good news for our cherished Mount Sunapee State Park and the protection of the park’s natural heritage and scenic beauty. Read more...