DRED seeks feds’ help on Sunapee expansion

The process surrounding plans to expand the Mount Sunapee ski area, already under the microscope, is about to be perused by a new set of eyes.

Sean O’Kane, commissioner of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, announced at a July 13 meeting of the Mount Sunapee Ski Area Advisory Committee that he will ask the National Park Service to review expansion plans proposed by Vermont-based Triple Peaks LLC, operator of Mount Sunapee Resort, which leases the ski area from the state.

He said his department will ask the federal agency to review the potential effect on water, air, transportation, cultural and historic issues, wildlife and forest species, recreation and the public character of Mount Sunapee State Park.

Triple Peaks’ plan calls for development of 75 acres of new ski trails in an area that would include lifts, a third base lodge on the western flank of the mountain and a parking area for about 300 vehicles. The firm also wants to acquire adjacent property in Goshen for seasonal condominiums.

In total, Triple Peaks wants an additional 175 acres of state-owned land – it currently leases 968 acres — to connect with the private land in Goshen where development would take place.

The request will likely delay expansion plans – a prospect that pleased the Friends of Mount Sunapee, a group opposed to the expansion proposal.

The group called the decision “unexpected and significant.”

“National Park Service involvement will offer the public a trusted, proven public planning process, one that will answer all the tough questions that local communities and parks advocates have been raising,” said Tom Elliott, executive director of the organization.

Elliott said that the group was “optimistic” that the National Park Service will eventually “require further study and more public involvement before allowing a federally enhanced public park to be used to facilitate invasive sprawl and ski expansion on the park’s borders.”

O’Kane and Parks Supervisor Allison McLean told the advisory committee the Department of Resources and Economic Development will compile a report to the National Park Service later this year. Based on that information, National Park Service will determine requirements needed to comply with the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.

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