Cog Rolls out big development plans near the summit.

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
Today's Berlin Daily Sun has an article on a proposal by the Cog to put in a new facility including, additional boarding and unboarding, tourist services and overnight lodging adjacent to the summit and in general expand onto their owned land outside of the state owned summit circle. This will replace the proposal made in 2019 which would have made changes inside the summit circle and would have impacted Auto road operations. The article describes the project verbally and has a marked up photo of the proposed project. Its basically developing the former military facility site. Many members of the board including the Auto Road are supporting it. Its described as being visually sheltered from the surroundings. Its also includes running a wastewater line from the summit to the base station.

The meeting was held last Friday and there are no minutes posted on the Summit Commision website. The project would require Coos county planning board approval as the proposed project is in area zoned for no development (with exceptions). Its not currently listed on the Coos County planning board site which would be the first public hearing.

This will definitely lead to a big increase in summit usage but having tourist services at the new facility should mitigate some of the impact. I do question how much as the proposed location selected to reduce visual impact from afar means that it will not have the views that the summit building has (although it still will have significant views).

In general, from a commercial and tourism development perspective a big plus with far fewer impacts than the prior Cog hotel and summit station expansion proposals but a definite spread of development on the Mt Washington summit.
I agree, lots of horse-trading. The Cog gets a place near existing structures and where the ROW is wide enough for the expansion. Better their money than mine. So the trains moving up the mountains will stop there and then transfer to a shuttle that will run from there to the top. On bad days they don't get much business, the idea of getting out of one train and into another train and then out again on top seems miserable on a bad tourist weather day. On days the summit building is closed due to really bad weather, will they run the train up that far? They would now have some shelter there and would the State Park ranger have any say on the matter?

Are the coaches/shelters basically large R/V's? I have to think they will have to be anchored down since wind is certainly capable to blow them over. (Thinking videos or tractor-trailer trucks in the wind) So sleeping in a metal (cushy) can in bad weather is the plan. Since you will likely need reservations, booking and paying for that opportunity sounds like gambling on good weather weeks or months from the time you make your reservation. (Assuming that shelter will only be for Cog riders and that shelter won't be reserved for hikers who want a different option that Lakes or Madison.) On a nice night, it would be great, in a rainstorm, no thanks. Still suffering from a night 27 years ago trying to sleep in the front of my pick-up truck in a heavy rain at the gate for Mt. Davis in PA.

The State OTOH, get a solution for the waste water issue that has been brought up before based on the increased traffic up there in recent years. For us in the choir, we all go up there from time to time, however, I suspect few of us would say Washington is near your top three, five or ten places you've been. I can't list places in the east past two in order (Katahdin, Haystack (ADK), after that, Gothics, Algonquin, Lincoln, the Bonds, Camel's Hump, Rocky Peak Ridge, Moosilauke, Guyot, Adams, Saddleback (ME) Bigelow, both peaks, all possibilities)

My only question would be, if approved, if either weather or demand show that staying there would be better served with a bigger structure, will the State lose some of their bargaining ability with this deal.
I don't know,not sure I can feel positive about this.Isn't the road and cog enough?I get we're in the mindset of "what's one more development gonna hurt".:rolleyes:14 million dollars is pretty optimistic by the owners and construction of the wastewater line will have a negative impact ...but hey!,if they can get the average tourist up there to wine and dine on the shoulder of MW more power to them.Let's hope if this does get the green light that the economy has somewhat stabilized ,but bring your checkbook just in case.
This is a far better proposal than the original idea, which was total lunacy. I still think this idea is dangerous in that I suspect people will still get in trouble from time to time, requiring SAR.
The wastewater issue is reportedly aready solved with some money from Covid funding. It will be interesting to see how durable the structures construction will be relative to a typical RV. My guess is there will be permanent anchoring points built into the ground along the tracks and when the cars are moved into place in the spring that the structure will be isolated from the car suspension and bolted to the anchoring points. Same with utilities, install everything permanent except for the connection to the car and hide it with skirting. I envision that unlike the photo markup there will be lot more impact to the site. Handicapped accessibility is going to require either decking it over or paving it to move the volumes of guests around the site. I would expect that there would need to be covered buildings along the tracks where the guests disembark to allow transfers to the shuttle train. That was a big part of the previous proposal to keep the guests out of the weather.

The question should be is this the proverbial nose of the camel under the side of the tent?.

It will be interesting when it goes before the planning board, horsetrading is a lot more difficult in public.

The bar is set pretty high. IMHO it would require quite a stretch on the planning boards part to include overnight stays. The board has previously permitted two warming huts (after the fact) below treeline and expansion of winter operations.
4.03F Steep Slopes & High Elevations (PD6)
1. Purpose: The purpose of the Steep Slopes & High Elevations Protected Overlay District (PD6) is to
regulate certain land use activities in mountain areas in order to preserve the natural equilibrium
of vegetation, geology, slope, soil and climate in order to reduce danger to public health and
safety posed by unstable mountain areas, to protect water quality and to preserve mountain areas
for their scenic values and recreational opportunities.
2. Description:
(a) Areas above 2,700 feet in elevation; or
(b) Slopes in excess of 60 percent (31 degree angle) over ten (10) contiguous acres.
3. Land Use Standards:
(a) Uses allowed without a permit: The following uses shall be allowed without a permit from the
Board within a PD6, provided they are allowed without a permit in the underlying District:
Zoning Ordinance, Coos County Unincorporated Places Amended 10/20/2017
Page 19
1. Primitive recreational uses, including fishing, hiking, hunting, wildlife study and
photography, trapping, tenting and camping at primitive campsites, canoe portaging,
cross country skiing and snowshoeing
2. Motorized vehicular traffic on existing roads
3. Wildlife and fishery management practices
4. Surveying and other resource analysis
5. Exempt signs
6. Emergency operations conducted for the public health, safety or general welfare, such as
resource protection, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations
7. Trails, provided they are constructed and maintained so as to reasonably avoid
sedimentation of water bodies
8. Snowmobiling and ATV trails
(b) Uses requiring a permit: The following uses may be allowed within a PD6 upon issuance of a
permit from the Board or designee, provided they are permitted in the underlying District:
1. Agricultural management activities
2. Forest management activities
3. Land management roads except for water crossing permitted pursuant to RSA 485-A:17
(Terrain Alterations)
4. Signs (Nonexempt)
(c) Uses allowed with Conditional Use Permit: Other structures, uses or services which the Board
determines are consistent with the purposes of this Subdistrict and of the Master Plan and are
not detrimental to the resources or uses which they protect, provided they are permitted in
the underlying District with or without a Conditional Use Permit.
(d) Prohibited Uses: All uses not expressly a
Staff at the Cog have helped from time to time with SAR also. Is having another set of shelters up there a good thing in bad weather? They had a structure in Edmand Col years ago, meant for emergency only. People were planning with that being a destination. Will people break into the shelters to get out of the weather. I haven't been to Lakes in years in the winter, is the Dungeon locked, are people using as emergency only or a planned camping destination. (Several years ago, the stench was awful because in brutal conditions, no one ventures out for any reason.)

I think the state knew that past wastewater concerns (Covid funding took care of the cost, working with the cog provides a route off the summit, could they have said no and made the state run a line buried along the road or above ground?) were going to become an issue and they got that problem solved, the Cog gets to expand but not at the summit proper. On 1/3 of the days, in summer you won't see it due to the weather. Assuming the structures stay up there year-round will create a new, small feature for snow drifts.
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They did state the structures will be moved up in the spring and down in the fall so winter impact only be the remaining infrastructure. The state never planned to pipe wastewater down, that was a solution the cog proposed. The existing cold weather subsurface disposal system worked, it just got overwhelmed by the big usage increase on the summit tied to predominately an increase in cog usage with the conversion of the fleet to predominantly diesel engines. They advertise them as biofuel powered but the fuel they use is mostly dyno diesel with a small percentage of biodiesel added to make it sound green.

Sending waste water down a pipe sounds easy but given the elevation difference of 2500 feet top to bottom its a pretty major engineering exercise.
Hope they bring up a "Bar Car" that is open to the public.
Years ago the bar at Killington had happy hour. It was fairly quick stumble down to the stone shelter on the west side of the mountain. I missed out but a friend who was doing a long backpack highly recomended it.
Loon has an outdoor bar in the summer...

Wow, talk about thinking outside of the box!

A very interesting proposal that I think will be hard to resist. It seems to check all the boxes and even the Auto Road guy likes it.

AMC can't complain about this "Lakes North" hostel. And with the adjacent tanks and structures on the disturbed site Save the Whites will have difficulty making its case.

Sly ole Wayne might just have hit a home run here. (Less Otten take notice)
Loon has an outdoor bar in the summer...

We were hiking on the Long Trail up at the Canadian border one hot dry summer's day. Several water sources listed in the guide book were dry. We went to the summit building hoping to find a water faucet, and were pleased to discover the cafeteria was open. Nice water bottle fountain, and the ice cream cone was quite welcomed as well.
Hope they bring up a "Bar Car" that is open to the public.

I wouldn't doubt it being they must of had them back when.


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We were hiking on the Long Trail up at the Canadian border one hot dry summer's day. Several water sources listed in the guide book were dry. We went to the summit building hoping to find a water faucet, and were pleased to discover the cafeteria was open. Nice water bottle fountain, and the ice cream cone was quite welcomed as well.

I am confused as to where you were on the Long Trail. The end point at the border is just a sign on the border swath and the hike south to Jay Peak is a long days hike. My guess is you were at the Jay Peak Summit building?.
I am confused as to where you were on the Long Trail. The end point at the border is just a sign on the border swath and the hike south to Jay Peak is a long days hike. My guess is you were at the Jay Peak Summit building?.

Glad I was not the only one confused. I thought they had moved Loon:D
And every comment in the Glob piece is a hard "no" b/c (1) the article doesn't provide any detail and (2) readers today make no attempt to analyze the facts to have informed opinions. Comical.
I think a lot of the problems with discussing a project up on the mountain come down to frame of reference for the project. For the vast majority of hiking public, if they have spent much time on the summit north slope its just a last slog before the summit during the daytime in non-winter conditions or possibly some redlining. Far fewer have been up there after the autoroad and cog operations have been closed for the evening or in the early morning before normal traffic starts up. There is also an inherent age limit in that only older folks would have experience the summit before and after the WMTW generator burned down. The former power plant was a steady drone especially from the SW and when it went away it was quite a noticeable improvement once the generators were taken out of the soundscape.

Obviously the OBS staff get exposed to the summit 24/7 but it is a far different staff than years past as many of the summit staff’s longevity is measured in months rather than years unlike years 20 or 30 years ago. The OBS presence on the summit is indirectly supported by the Cog and autoroad so they are not in position to object to the project.

Photographers can inherently introduce a very biased frame of reference inherently by the tools and timing of their trade. During the start of debate for the earlier cog hotel concept some of the photos appeared to be taken on the east and south side of the summit and frequently taken either during the “golden hours” of early morning or late evening when summit operations are stopped. The impact of past US military operations on the summit are far more obvious from an aerial photo than from walking at ground level. If you have seen over the years photos of the moose, foxes and other wildlife emerging at the summit, they usually have been taken after the tourists have gone for the day or in early morning.
The marked-up photo in the paper showing discreet rail cars parking in the area does not show what inevitably will be a far more permanent and temporary infrastructure that will need to be installed to support the claimed operations. There will need to be extensive unloading and loading platforms located along the two tracks and an inevitably hardening and upgrade of the Nelson Crag trail from the proposed development to the summit as a typical tourist is not going to be equipped to rock hop up and down through the boulder fields. This is also the matter of lighting this path for the guest’s safety. Inevitably guests at the new cog accommodations are going to want to visit the summit building for sunset and will need lighting in and around the new railcars. This is a potential major increase in light pollution on the summit, even with modern low light pollution fixtures, the potential area of light pollution on the NE summit cone is probably the biggest impact well outside the 99-foot cog property.

There is also an aural bias, few folks really understand how noisy the summit is during non-winter operations. Anyone coming up over the lip of the great gulf or even past the Mt Clay loop junction from the north will notice the large increase in noise from the summit operations. The auto road has a steady drone of vehicles from mid-morning until late afternoon punctured frequently by loud motorcycle exhausts. The cog has been trumpeting their increased numbers of guests brought to the summit since the transition to a mostly diesel fleet. Although the steam engines are still run-in off hours on occasion the sounds of steam and steam whistles have been replaced with the steady drone of a diesel interrupted by truck horn that sounds like it’s been taken off a semi. More than a few folks have wondered what construction is being done on the summit as the drone of the cog engines sounds like a backhoe wending its way to the summit from about 9 AM to 5 PM. As the day ends and the cogs and autos have headed down, the summit gets a lot quieter as there is no longer a need to run a generator at the summit.

The cog also has been a bit nonspecific about the eventually buildout of the summit expansion. They are already pushing that the accommodations will be the highest altitude in the NE and a logical extension of having accommodations up there is to have meal service up there supported by evening cog trains. In general, the evening above treeline experience anywhere in sight of the north summit will be degraded both visually and acoustically.

The big problem is the state tends to manage the summit circle as a commercial venture, letting the various commercial and quasi commercial and nonprofit interests fight it out. The vast majority of those interests supports of the Cog effort as it makes more space in the summit circle for all interests. The AMC is dependent on summit to support LOC for resupply and guest transport (many older guests elect to get a ride to the summit and work their way down to LOC rather than hiking up from Ammo or Pinkham). The proposed development is on the other side of the summit cone so its out of sight of both LOC and Madison Hut. The USFS has been quiet but in the past many of the decisions have been influenced by political decisions coming out of Washington, in this case the state government and regional politicians who are on occasion supported by the Cog and Autoroad appear to be lining up to support the effort gaining cover by saying its great compromise compared to the prior proposal. No doubt there is some quid pro quo going on as the proposed costly Yankee building replacement that supports primarily the telecommunications interests at the summit as desperately in need of support by the other members of the commission.

Of course, the temptation is to treat it like disaster tourism and take a few trips up this year before the new degradation starts so that the proud hiker can in later years say they were up there in the good old days before the summit suffered a bit more degradation. Then discreetly get the credit card ready to book room in few years��
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