In mid December of 2016, the Ammonoosuc Chapter of New Hampshire Audubon released a statement regarding the proposed Cog Railway hotel on Mount Washington. The statement is reproduced below courtesy David Govatski.
To: Coos County Planning Board
From: Ammonoosuc Chapter of New Hampshire Audubon
Regarding: The proposed luxury hotel in the alpine zone on Mount Washington
The Ammonoosuc Chapter of New Hampshire Audubon (NHA) strongly opposes the proposed construction of a luxury hotel at Skyline on Mount Washington. Our members are very familiar with this location and these are our reasons:
- The site is in the middle of a unique alpine zone at an elevation of 5,600 feet. There are only 4,000 acres of alpine habitat in all of New Hampshire and we object to putting a luxury hotel in the middle of one of the finest alpine areas in the Presidential Range.
- The surrounding area contains several rare arctic/alpine plants and plant communities that would be subject to damage by hotel guests.
- The surrounding area is breeding habitat for the American pipit, a species that breeds on Mount Washington and in the Arctic. While not rare, this species has a disjunct breeding range and is of importance to ecologists and other scientists and the source of wonder for all those who see pipits and their sky dance.
- The location is in the habitat of two protected butterflies, the White Mountain Arctic and the White Mountain Fritillary.
- The location is within a few hundred yards of the Great Gulf Wilderness, the first Wilderness in New Hampshire and created as a result of the 1964 Wilderness Act of Congress.
- The location is within a hundred yards of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a Congressionally designated route with protective requirements.
- Several towns and many area residents would view the location on the skyline of the Presidential Range as a form of visual pollution. The light pollution at night would be a further source of complaints.
- Both the historic Westside and Gulfside Trails are adjacent to the hotel site and their historic values lessened by a luxury hotel next to them.
- The location is within a few hundred yards of the dangerous edge of the Great Gulf Headwall. This would be a source of fatalities and rescues.
- We are concerned about how the sewer and water lines would be constructed and maintained. We already have concerns about the buried electric line being used as a new trail route.
- We are aware of a building setback distance of 25 feet on each side of the 99-foot wide corridor that the Cog Railway owns. This leaves a strip of 49 feet for a building and this strip includes the actual tracks. Running one of the coal-fired engines would generate a lot of sparks and life safety would need to be a major factor in building design.
- We object to allowing this type of building on a new site above the 2,700-foot elevation that is fully outlined in the Coos Unincorporated Places Ordinance. We further object to any attempts to provide a waiver for this particular building.
- We object to providing a waiver for the 25 foot setback distance so that one entity to can build adjacent to public lands that all Americans own and the White Mountain National Forest manages. We believe that providing a waiver would set a precedent for future cases in the alpine zone.
- Our chapter name comes from the Ammonoosuc River, a NH Designated River, whose origin is here and we are very sensitive to any threats.
- The Ammonoosuc Chapter of NH Audubon prefers that the Cog Railway consider proposing a hotel site at the Base Station for your review.
- The Ammonoosuc Chapter of NH Audubon appreciates the Cog Railway and its long history and importance as an economic engine in the White Mountains. We feel that this proposal would harm the natural environment and potentially diminish the economic value of the mountain for other uses.
- In closing we suggest that the Board take a longer view of what is happening on the summit of Mount Washington. The Mount Washington Commission and multiple organizations and agencies should work together to determine what is the capacity of this mountaintop to handle people and the issues associated with increasing numbers of people.
David Govatski, President
Ammonoosuc Chapter of New Hampshire Audubon
15 December 2016