CONCORD, N.H. — Environmentalists and hiking groups are stepping up the fight against a proposal to build a luxury hotel a mile from the summit of Mount Washington, complaining it would damage the fragile alpine ecology and destroy the scenic views.
The owners of a historic cog railway that runs up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S., are proposing a 25,000-square-foot hotel, citing growing demand from tourists for accommodations near the top of the mountain.
Located at an elevation of 5,600 feet on land abutting the railway, the 35-room hotel would be open from late April through November. It could be ready by July 3, 2019, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
Since the proposal was announced in December, opposition has grown steadily, with petitions being signed and websites dedicated to stopping the project popping up. Among the concerns is that the hotel would tarnish views of the Presidential Range, the peaks that are named for U.S. presidents.
“To put a hotel in one of these beautiful areas along the Appalachian Trail would create an enormous impact on the scenic environment,” said David Govatski, the president of a local NH Audubon chapter who has hiked the mountain more than 80 times. “It would destroy the view.”
Other groups are concerned about the impact the hotel would have on the region’s threatened plants, birds and butterflies.
Wayne Presby, president of the Mount Washington Railway Company, which runs the cog railway and on whose property the hotel would be built, said it’s needed to meet the growing demand from tourists. Currently, there is only limited space on the mountain for hikers to spend the night in Appalachian Mountain Club huts and groups to stay in Mount Washington Observatory. Both lack the amenities of a luxury hotel.
The 6,288-foot Mount Washington has been attracting more tourists in New Hampshire’s North Country since the loss of the Old Man of the Mountain, a granite profile and state symbol that crumbled in 2003. It draws over 300,000 guests annually.