A Wilderness Bridge vs. an Alpine Zone Hotel

Mount Washington from the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Mount Washington Cog Railway – General Area of the Skyline Switch
 

A Wilderness Bridge vs. an Alpine Zone Hotel – Talk throughout the White Mountains and New England has been about a proposal made by the Cog Railway to “possibly” build a hotel and restaurant on the side of Mount Washington. The proposal itself has created disbelief among many. And I have to admit that I am still shocked that a group would even consider damaging the fragile alpine environment to expand a business venture.

But the reality is this scenario has been playing out throughout the White Mountains in different ways. There are many examples, but the best one is the proposed removal of the footbridge along the Thoreau Falls Trail in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. The Thoreau Falls Trail bridge has become a safety concern, and Forest Service has proposed to remove it. Much like the proposed hotel it has become a heated issue.

Side view of footbridge along the Thoreau Falls Trail, at North Fork Junction, in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of Lincoln, New Hampshire.
Thoreau Falls Trail Bridge – Pemigewasset Wilderness, New Hampshire
 

Because of the strict guidelines that protect designated wilderness areas from human impact, permanent improvements are not allowed within these areas. And when a man-made structure, such as the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge (above), becomes defunct, the norm is to dismantle it, not replace it. Well, some disapprove of the strict wilderness guidelines. And similar to the alleged claims of the proposed hotel improving safety on Mount Washington they use “safety” as a positioning tool to argue the bridge needs to be replaced.

Mount Washington from Mount Clay in New Hampshire.
Mount Washington Cog Railway – General Area of the Skyline Switch
 

Now back to the proposed hotel. It has been speculated the proposed hotel on the side of Mount Washington will have significant impact to the alpine zone and forever alter the landscape. But one of the alleged benefits of the proposed hotel is it will help with safety issues on Mount Washington. There is that word again "safety”.

Side view of the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge days after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. This bridge crosses the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River at North Fork Junction in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of New Hampshire.
Days after Tropical Storm Irene – Thoreau Falls Trail Bridge, Pemigewasset Wilderness
 

For those who are using safety as the reason as to why the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge needs to be rebuilt. Can the conclusion be made that you support the building of a hotel in the fragile alpine zone? After all, one of the alleged benefits of the proposed hotel is it will help with safety issues on Mount Washington. How could you be against a project that improves safety in an area that has the worst weather in America?

A little off track, and I am not sure of the current status of the project. But do you also support Forest Service’s proposal to build a handful of helicopter pads in the White Mountains? The entire project focuses on safety.

I am not trying to undermine the importance of safety in the White Mountains. And my intention here is not to criticize anyone's position on any issue, only to point out how two issues that seem to be different on the surface are in reality very similar. Replacing the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge goes against the principles of the wilderness act. Ironically, similar principles are used to protect the alpine zones from human impact.

Could replacing the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge influence the outcome of the proposed hotel in the alpine zone?

Happy image making..


 

As a resident of Lincoln, I do not want the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge replaced or a hotel built in the alpine zone. You can license any of the above images for usage by clicking on the image you are interested in.

Connect with us on Facebook | Subscribe to our blog | See our New Hampshire wall calendars

The following two tabs change content below.
Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

Latest posts by Erin Paul Donovan (see all)

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>