Mt. Sunapee and the future of NH’s state parks



Published:

To the editor:

The Executive Council’s upcoming decision on Sunapee’s proposed modest expansion will impact the future of all New Hampshire state parks.

The state park system, managed by the Department of Resources and Economic Development, is “self-funded” and must operate like any business where total revenue dictates scope of operations.

Currently, Mount Sunapee generates over $600,000 a year in lease payments. These payments fund Cannon Mountain capital improvements so Cannon is now competitive and profitable. Cannon’s profits are used by DRED to subsidize the annual operations of the approximately 90 “low/non-revenue generating” parks.

What happens if Sunapee falls behind its competition and its revenue declines? The domino effect is obvious. DRED would be faced with having to cut back on Cannon improvements or close “low/non-revenue generating” parks, or both.

An even scarier scenario is looming in 2018 when the current leaseholder has the option to exercise a 10-year extension. If this option were not exercised, a new request for proposal would need to be issued for bids on a new lease. What is a lease for a ski area that cannot expand worth?

The current leaseholder, by any measure, is a “Class A” ski area operator. A new lease will have a far lower perceived value than the current lease (executed in 1998) and likely would not draw bids from any Class A operator or would draw no bids at all.

Unfortunately, no Mount Sunapee Ski Area is what the opposition has advocated since 1948. They now claim the modest addition of four trails and one lift will ruin Mount Sunapee State Park. What they don’t tell you is a noncompetitive Mount Sunapee Ski Area will result in a greatly diminished New Hampshire State Park System for future generations. 

Hess Gates

Sunapee

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