[at-l] Appalachian money club

South Walker southwalker at windstream.net
Sun Jan 24 17:38:39 CST 2016


Plan to build backwoods hut in White Mountains fuels debate

Published: Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 9:59 a.m.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - More than five decades since a backcountry hut for
hikers was last built in New Hampshire's White Mountains, a plan to put one
less than 2 miles into the woods has stirred passions among some outdoor
lovers who say the mountains are already overrun by wealthy out-of-staters
who are trampling on a fragile part of the world and undermining the outdoor
experience.

The Appalachian Mountain Club proposed building "Sparkling Cascade" - a
place for hikers to get some rest, a hot meal and a bunk to crash on for the
night - in a section of Crawford Notch. The club says it would be close
enough to the main road that people who might not ordinarily get into the
mountains could more easily experience it - older people, youngsters on
their first hikes or just newbies.

The new addition would also be between two existing huts that are 14 miles
apart, allowing a hiker to put together a hut-to-hut experience at shorter
mileage. That would be particularly useful in winter when the conditions in
the White Mountains are especially unpredictable and the days are shorter.

A trail would also connect to the Appalachian Trail, the 2,189-mile footpath
that attracts hundreds of thru-hikers each year traveling from Georgia to
Maine.

"We want to be sure that the connection to the outdoors that we know and
love is available to a wide range of people," said Paul Cunha, the vice
president of outdoor operations for the 140-year-old nonprofit, told The
Associated Press.

The first hut - Madison Spring - was built in 1888 in the northern
Presidential range, where the peaks tower above 5,000 feet. There are now
eight AMC huts in the White Mountains, the most recent - Mizpah Spring Hut
in the southern Presidential range - was built as the backpacking craze took
off in the 1960s. Since then, use has tripled and the huts are often at
capacity.

The huts are anything but simple lean-tos. They offer some comforts and
shelter from the elements, plus warmth and camaraderie. Some huts provide
cooked meals, others cook-your-own self-service. All of them are free of the
trappings of life back home; there are no TVs and cell service is spotty, if
it exists at all. The average rate is $60 a night, but prices can go above
$100 - a price that some critics say keeps them out of reach for too many.

Sparkling Cascade would accommodate 50 any given night plus crew members. A
clearing would be created to allow a helicopter to drop in supplies, and a
parking lot would be built at the trailhead to accommodate 30 to 50
vehicles.

The proposal was first disclosed this past summer and has led to opposition
from hikers and lovers of the outdoors who contend the region is already
overcrowded, ruining the experience, causing harm to a treasured environment
and commercializing this part of the world.

In response to the public's comments, the AMC is now rethinking the proposal
and is evaluating other locations, Cunha told the AP. It's too soon to say
it's off the table but, he said, "we're looking for a variety of options to
mitigate those concerns." He anticipates getting out in the field in the
spring and having a revised plan to make public by fall.

Chris Magness, a guide with the International Mountain Climbing School in
North Conway, was upset when he heard about the plan and felt it was being
considered without the public knowing much about it. So he circulated a
petition to draw attention to it, nearly 1,000 people have signed so far.

"Crawford Notch is very unique," he said. "It's rugged. It's beautiful. It's
sacred to a lot of people who use the outdoors. ... I'd like future
generations to have the same experiences I've had."

Dozens of letters sent to state officials underscore a division. Those who
favor it see it as a chance to introduce the outdoors to those who might
otherwise consider the mountains inaccessible.

Mark Dindorf, the chairman of the board of selectman for Hart's Location,
the community within Crawford Notch, considers the hut a chance to expose
more people to the outdoors he grew to love since he scaled his first peak
in the Whites when he was 5.

Though he's concerned the proposed location would encroach on a boreal
forest area, overall he believes a new hut would be beneficial.

"This isn't a huge, sprawling development ... and it's in keeping with
history and tradition," said Dindorf, whose wife works for the AMC.

Still others see it as encroaching on a rugged wilderness that stretches
over 1,250 square miles. Laura Waterman, the Vermont-based author of "Forest
and Crag" with her now-late husband Guy Waterman weighed in with a
typewritten letter of her own.

"Once the hut is built the character of the place will change and those
woods will never be the same again," she wrote. "I see the hut proposal only
damaging our beloved mountains and the wild spirit hikers seek."

 

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