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.