Cog Railway Hotel Proposal, My Viewpoint – As you look at the above image can you imagine a 35 room hotel along the Cog Railway in the area you see? I know, it seems far-fetched. But the reality is the Mount Washington Cog Railway is in the early stages of “possibly” building a lodge and restaurant in the area of the Skyline switch along the railway. I am not joking, a hotel in the fragile alpine zone environment.
Public information suggests the proposed hotel will be along the railroad about a mile below the summit, near the Skyline switch. I believe the Skyline switch is in the above section of the railroad (behind the rock cairn). The included images help visualize the general area of the proposed hotel building site on Mount Washington.
It is not well known, but the Cog Railway owns the land that the railroad is on, and a small portion of land on each side of the tracks. According to newspaper articles and other public information, the Cog Railway owns a 99-foot-wide strip of land that straddles the railroad from the Cog Station to the summit of Mount Washington.
The proposed hotel will be built entirely on Cog Railway property. A sewer line from the new hotel down to the Cog Station is also in the plans. And the hotel will be open from May to November. The Cog Railway feels this new hotel will help alleviate some of the tourism impact and safety issues on Mount Washington.
It is no secret that there has been a huge surge in tourism here in the White Mountains, and it may be at crisis level. But in my opinion, building a 35 room hotel on the side of Mount Washington will do nothing to alleviate the impact on Mount Washington. More than likely it is going to do just the opposite and cause even more impact on the mountain. And a building built in the alpine zone will impact the mountain environment.
And considering the hotel will be closed during the most dangerous time of year (winter) on Mount Washington, I am skeptical of the safety benefits it might have. In this new era of the White Mountains, groups have realized that projects can be passed or blocked if the word “safety” is in the mix. I will leave it at that.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway is rich with history, and we should celebrate this. But the history attached to the railroad doesn’t give the Cog Railway a free pass to build in the fragile alpine zone. The money the Cog Railway plans to spend on this project would be better spent on the continued clean up along the Cog Railway.
As a conservation-minded society, all we do is preach about the importance of conserving the White Mountains environment. And as an environmental photographer, I am part of this preaching. But how can we promote the importance of protecting the alpine zones when the current land stewards of the land want to build on it?
I know some support this hotel project, and I understand your position. But this trend of man leaving their mark everywhere in the White Mountains is very concerning. It is destroying the beauty of the White Mountains. And I hope this hotel proposal wakes people up to what is happening here in the White Mountains.
The Coos County planning board will hear this hotel proposal on December 8, 2016. As of this writing, there are three petitions on Change.org Inc about the proposed Cog Railway hotel project. Two petitions are against the project, and one supports it. And you can read the newspaper articles about the project here. I encourage you to voice your opinion. This proposed hotel will permanently alter the landscape of Mount Washington.
Happy image making..
This opinion article is intended to create awareness for the White Mountains environment. You can license any of the above images for usage in publications by clicking on the image you are interested in. And you can view more images of the Skyline switch area here.