The purpose of this letter is to address comments sought to determine if the proposed action to authorize the AMC to enter into a lease with the DRED NH Division of Parks and Recreation to construct, operate and maintain the Sparkling Cascade Area Hut meets the statutory purposes of the Crawford Notch State Park.
Siting the scoping letter criteria used when evaluating a lease proposed, the lease must be consistent with and supportive of the plan for the individual park. Does the Crawford Notch State Park have an individual plan? Has it been presented and made available to the public and the local community during the time of written comments of the proposal? Per the criteria, if a plan does not exist at the time of a proposed lease the creation and approval of the plan will be prepared at a scale appropriate for the nature of the request shall be part of the lease development process. Does this plan exist? We are unable to comment on the proposed lease without such information based on your own criteria as we have not been provided with your information.
The proposed land for lease exists within a town that is strictly zoned residential. According to the DRED Division of Parks and Recreation criteria the proposed lease shall comply with limitation placed on the property at time of acquisition including other statutory limitations. Crawford Notch State Park is located in the town of Harts Location. There are currently two grandfathered businesses within the town. The remainder is zoned residential. How is the proposed lease and the construction of a new AMC Hut with the capacity of 50 guests/night consistent with a residential zoning? The town of Harts Location has no Building Permit submitted yet for the proposed facility. More importantly, based on the town zoning as residential, the construction of a 50 guest/night overnight accommodation facility would certainly be denied.
Also, according to the DRED Division of Parks and Recreation the proposed lease shall not unduly impact the local community in the area of public safety and quality of life. How has this been addressed? This proposed lease for a public facility is located within a town that has no public safety infrastructure. According to the scoping letter the impact on quality of life in the community has been identified already to have meet this criteria. How is this possible in a community without a Police Department, Emergency Medical Services, cell phone coverage, town road maintenance, etc? Further, the concern over the 30-50 car parking lot is substantial. The proposed area is already overburdened with the existing demands. Once the AMC admittedly constructs the proposed parking lot on the State Park land within the town of Harts Location, what department or resource is responsible for maintenance and plowing? More importantly, the difference between 30 and 50 cars is significant. If the Hut has a capacity for 50 people and a 30 car lot is constructed how is the significant overflow potential addressed? How are potential medical emergencies handled without telephone or cell phone access in a town without medical assistance and therefore substantial time and distance from Definitive Care? The current parking situation at the proposed site within the State Park is inadequate. The increased usage in summer would be considerable (both day use and overnight), however more concerning is the demand on parking in the winter from existing ice climbers, day hikers and now the future overnight Hut guests.
In addition, the opportunities for public comment on the lease is very questionable and untimely. The criteria states there shall be adequate opportunity for public comment. Unfortunately, this period was very brief and held during the peak time of tourism which is essential for prosperity in the community which is a huge disadvantage. Also, the lack of State Representatives and informed answers from the AMC Representative present (via invite) to the town meeting in Harts Location presented a significant disadvantage to this process. Without the scope of information necessary during this comment period based on the State Park criteria, this comment period is non-excitant.
Lastly, based on the criteria for the proposed lease the plan shall contain a development plan detailing proposed expansion and improvements to the property. Has this been provided to the public for comment during this period? Currently the Dry River Campground has constructed a shed without a Building Permit from the Town. It is not possible to comment on the entire scope of the proposed plan for an AMC Hut with the potential of 50 overnight guests/night and a significant number of day use guests and a new trail system established and maintained all without this information, especially based on the construction that has already begun and already exists in the Crawford Notch State Park System without a town permit. Why hasnít town officials been involved to date, and will the town select board and residents be involved going forward? This point is very concerning.
Other concerns regarding the proposed lease not provided via the DRED Division of Parks and Recreation criteria is the allocation of funds generated to the Crawford Notch State Park via the proposed lease. What is the proposed term of the lease and annual revenue? Would the proposed lease be ratified by the Governor and Council? What percentage stays within the Crawford Notch State Park? How much will be allocated to the general State Park funds? Will the town see any financial compensation for the impacts on its infrastructure? Payment of property taxes, portion of rooms and meal tax collected. In a state with increasing budget challenges and in a town with very limited resources the funds are of great importance.