Sununu Approves 10-Year Master Plan for Mount Washington State Park

The Mount Washington Commission met Friday at the Franconia Notch State Park headquarters in Franconia. Paula Tracy photo


FRANCONIA — Gov. Chris Sununu this week approved the 10-year master plan for Mount Washington State Park and expects an estimate for a comprehensive environmental assessment of summit needs as part of his budget, members of the Mount Washington Commission were told Friday.

In a Jan. 26 letter to the commission, Sununu thanked members for their work in creating a master plan for the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast.

Sununu said the site “is drawing people from around the world to our beautiful state and I am pleased that such thought is being put into ensuring that it is accessible for recreation, used for essential services and preserved for future generations.” .”

The governor wrote: “I received and reviewed the plan last week. It presents a number of great opportunities to pursue…please consider this letter as my endorsement of the Mount Washington Master Plan. I look forward to seeing the work of the Commission in the years to come.”

A copy of the final plan can be found here
The commission, made up of stakeholders from the Cog Railway, Mount Washington Auto Road, Appalachian Mountain Club, Mount Washington Observatory, State Parks and Town Square Media, which operate towers at the summit, voted to accept the plan last October with public input.

Those who attended public hearings on the plan in Conway and Concord expressed grave concern about the fragile natural environment at 6,288 feet, which throngs of people visit each year.

The commission approved the document with the proviso that the state conduct a separate, full environmental assessment of the impacts of the summit due to climate change and human impact, and implement recommendations not only for access but also for future and current buildings.

Sarah Stewart, Commissioner for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, told the commission as it met at Franconia Notch State Park headquarters on Friday for its quarterly meeting, the first since the master plan was passed, that it would be good to have an estimate for the to have environmental assessment costs to include in the Sununu budget address. The announcement is scheduled for February 14.

She said the next step would be “to have a conversation with the capital committee about the guidance that was given to us with this master plan and to seek a consultant with the expertise to make assessments at the summit.”

State Senator Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said a rough estimate of the cost would be good. He was chairman of the commission and resigned as he is now Senate President. Bradley said funding for this study could be found either in the capital budget or in government surplus funds.

“I think given the revenue we’re generating, I’d like to see it in one-time dollars in the operating budget,” Bradley said. “I’ll bring it up… I meet with him (Sununu) every Tuesday morning. If you could give me a rough idea of ​​that that would be great.”

Any such contract would have to be put out to tender, and then the recommended company and contract would have to be approved by the five-member executive board, which could take several months.

“This is great news,” Stewart said, noting that the process is moving forward. She said the Executive Council is aware of the current process.


Fees paid to the state for use of the facility at the summit will be something new to be picked up by the commission for consideration and recommendation as it moves forward, Stewart said.

Brian Wilson, the new state parks director, attended the meeting and said he is now absorbing information and working with the summit staff. He said he will “follow where we are with leases and our partners.”

The Mount Washington Commission, which acts in an advisory capacity, could receive quarterly information on lease income and when leases are due to be renegotiated. This affects all members of the Commission who also have rental contracts.

Stewart said she wanted to know if there was a preferred format, such as a spreadsheet. This is part of an effort to provide more transparency to the public.

“This will be a new format,” Stewart said, “we’re in the business of full transparency.”

She said there are a number of issues to be reviewed in the coming months.


The commissioners heard of a new state building available to Parks in Gorham and progress on a new wastewater treatment plant at the summit, although work was completed in October and will resume in May or June.

Discussions are ongoing this winter about the need for internet and broadband in the new sewage treatment plant.

Parks are getting a new state facility in Gorham that has been relocated within the state that will assist the parks with improved off-peak space for park retail operations.

Parks Director Wilson said he plans to reach out and sign the community to let people know state parks have a new place in the city. He said it’s across from Libby’s in front of the train tracks, about two acres and one building.
Also this winter, Mount Washington Observatory staff are working on a new information display that will hopefully include current summit conditions. It could be completed by the beginning of the year.

It is also attempting to update some signage, including an overhaul of all hiking trails at the summit, including the Appalachian Trail routes.

Wayne Presby, president of the Cog Railway, said the previous master plan talked about building a boat trail around the summit.

Ed Bergeron said that could be part of the environmental review.

Wilson said he and Patrick Hummel, park manager, met to discuss “achievements” of the master plan and there may be a visitor survey as part of the plan.


After Bradley resigned as chairman with his new responsibilities as chairman of the State Senate, Commissioner for the Public and Deputy Chairman Ed Bergeron was named the new chairman of the Mount Washington Commission. Bergeron is a trained engineer.


The next meeting of the commission is scheduled for March 24th. There will also be meetings on May 19th, July 21st probably at the summit, September 22nd and November 17th.


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