While waiting for Cog hotel application, Coos planning board studies options

By Chris Jensen
InDepthNH.org

LANCASTER — The Coos Planning Board doesn’t have a formal proposal for a hotel high on the flank of Mount Washington. But it’s already exploring whether a hotel can be located in such a "protected district."

During a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday the board went into a private session with lawyer Christine Fillmore to discuss how much latitude it has when it comes to zoning regulations.

The issue is a controversial proposal by Wayne Presby and Joel Bedor to build a 35-room hotel in a protected area at a height of about 5,000 feet. The Presby and Bedor families own The Cog Railway and say the hotel would be on land they own and would be privately financed.

“The board has been asking for guidance and how you would interpret some of those uses in a protected zone,” said planning board chairman John Scarinza.

That’s a reference to part of the Coos County zoning regulations designed “to protect certain critical areas from inappropriate land use activities which may degrade their environmental quality.”

That includes “steep slopes and high elevations.” Those are defined as terrain above 2,700 feet and slopes exceeding 60 degrees.

Presby raised the possibility of a hotel at a planning board meeting in December. And planning board vice chairman Fred King contended that one section of the regulation gives the board the latitude to approve such a project.

It reads: “Other structures, uses or services which the Board determines are consistent with the purposes of this sub-district and of the Master Plan and are not detrimental to the resources or uses which they protect.”

Scarinza declined to share the legal advice, but said the lawyer has “given us guidance on things that the board should consider if and when it receives an application. Once an application comes in the board will have to make its best judgement going forward.”

Presby declined to provide an update on the project.

Six conservation groups are opposing the project citing the “rare and fragile nature” of that alpine environment. The groups also say the hotel would harm the “extraordinary scenic and cultural value.”

The groups are the Appalachian Trail Conservancy; the Conservation Law Foundation; New Hampshire Audubon; The Society for the Protection of New Hamphire Forests and The Appalachian Mountain Club.

Presby and supporters of the project say there is a history of hotels on Mount Washington, the area along The Cog Railway is hardly pristine, the hotel would provide a safe haven for hikers in case of bad weather and would provide an economic boost.

The Appalachian Mountain Club is familiar with such controversies. It has been on the other side.

It operates eight huts offering meals and lodging in The White Mountains and in 2015 it proposed building a new one in the Crawford Notch. The proposal was strongly opposed by outdoor enthusiasts as a commercialization of the area.

New Hampshire Fish and Game also opposed it, noting it would be located in high-elevation habitat. The agency quoted an AMC document that describes such habitats as “a very limited, yet critical component of the Northeastern landscape.”

The AMC eventually withdrew the proposal.

 

Chris Jensen photo: Coos County Planning Board Vice Chairman Fred King

Three snowmobile accidents reported

COOS COUNTY — Three snowmobile accidents were reported in different communities this week with injuries reported in all three.

A Massachusetts woman crashed her rental snowmobile with her 10-year old daughter riding on back Thursday in Carroll.

Amber Grenier, 39, of Webster was driving the snowmobile on the Old Cherry Mountain trail at about 1:30 p.m.when she accidentally hit the throttle coming around an icy corner. The snowmoible accelerated, leaving the trail and hitting a tree.

Grenier and her daughter, Amy, were thrown off the machine.

Twin Mountain Fire and Rescue and the Carroll police responded. Fish and Game was responding to an earlier accident.

Grenier was transported by ambulance to a waiting Dartmouth-Hitchcock Memorial Center helicopter with serious injuries. Her mother was transported to Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster with minor injuries.

Earlier in the afternoon, a Rhode Island woman crashed her rental snowmobile with her son as a passenger while riding on Trail 11 in Jefferson.

Mary Roberti, 49, if West Worwick, R.I. failed to negotiate a turn with the snowmobile and the vehicle crashed into a ditch and then an embankment on thesother side of the trail.

A fish and Game conservation officer, Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, and Lancaster EMS responded to the scene. Grenier and her son were transported to Weeks Medical Center for treatment and were later released.

Both crashes are under investigation at this time however inexperience appears to be contributing factors.

Fish and Game responded to a snowmobiler accident Wednesday night in Pittsburg where a New York man was injured after crashing his snowmobile into a guardrail on a bridge on Carr Ridge Road in Pittsburg.

Fish and Game Officials said Manuel Hagenbuch, 55, of Red Hook, N.Y., was operating a friend’s snowmobile on Trail 138 when the crash occurred.

Accoring to witnesses, Hagenbuch had been following a family member when he reportedly side swiped the bridge railing causing injuries.

A passing snowmobiler came upon the injured man and drove out to a local cabin and called 911 for help.

First responders from Pittsburg Fire & Rescue and 45 Parallel EMS, Border Patrol Agent, Fish & Game Conservation Officers and Pittsburg Police responded to the call.

Hagenbuch was transported to Upper-Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook via 45th Parallel where he was treated for serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

Fish and Game proposes cutting number of moose permits

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game has proposed cutting the number of statewide moose hunt permits by almost 30 percent.

The initial proposal to cut total issued permits to 51 from last year's 71 was approved by the Fish and Game Commission at its February meeting.

This begins the state's rule-making process, which will include development of a rule-making notice, scheduling of public hearings, and the opportunity to submit written comments.

Hearing dates will be announced as soon as they become available.

Two years ago, the number of permits was reduced by about 32 percent, from 105 to 71.

A hundred permits were originally issued in 1989, the first year of the hunt, which was organized "to help thin out the moose herd" at the time.

In 1992, the number of permits rose to 190 and the following year to 317 permits. By 1994, the number had increased to 405 and topped out at a record 495 in 1995.

"This is the first time since the last legal hunt at the turn of the century that we're opening up the entire state for moose hunting," Paul Dest of Fish and Game said in 1994. "We're in a position now where our biologists feel the herd can easily sustain a statewide hunt."

The herd stood at 5,000 in 1994, Dest said, and "that figure is growing."

That was then. Now, according to the National Wildlife Foundation, "The New Hampshire moose population has plummeted by more than 40 percent in the last decade from over 7,500 moose to just 4,000 today.

According to foundation biologists, some of the decline is due to "increasing parasite loads influenced by shorter winters caused by climate change."

The parasites include both winter tick and brainworm. According to Fish and Game, the situation is being closely monitored, and a multiyear study is underway.

Meanwhile, those applying for the 2017 New Hampshire moose hunt lottery should be aware that the estimated moose density in the South West Region, comprising moose management units H2-North, H2-South and K, has declined to the "cutoff threshold" established in the Moose Management Plan, at which permit issuance would be suspended in these three units during the 2017 lottery.

The initial proposal also reduces permit numbers in the North Region (units B, C2 and D1) from 25 to 15, and in the White Mountain Region (units C1, D2, E1, E2, E3 and F) from 20 to 15, with some permits continuing to be issued in all moose management units in these regions.

Lottery applicants should consider these possible changes when they apply. As moose lottery application information indicates, applicants should rank all units to maximize their chances of being offered a permit.

If offered a permit for a unit an applicant prefers not to hunt, the permit can be declined without loss of accumulated points.

To enter the New Hampshire moose hunt lottery, visit www.huntnh.com/hunting/moose.html.

Entering the lottery costs $15 for New Hampshire residents and $25 for non-residents.

Lloyd Jones contributed to this story

Recalling the glory days of jumping at Nansen

By Barbara Tetreault

MILAN — If all goes as planned, Olympic ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson will soon descend the take-off ramp at Nansen Ski Jump and, for one shining moment, the glory days of jumping here will return.

Ski jumping was popular in Berlin long before the Nansen Jump was built in 1936-37. The Nansen Ski Club history states skiers were jumping at Paine Hill Ski Jump, built on what is now Eleventh Street, as early as 1906.

In fact the current jump was originally known as "Big Nansen Jump" because the Nansen Ski Club first built a 40-meter jump, which it expanded into a 45-meter hill in 1927.

Roland Pelchat said there were maybe a dozen jumps, largely scattered around the section of the city known as Norwegian Village and Twelve Street. Carl Wright said he started jumping on neighborhood jumps when he was 5 or 6 years old and recalled his father built a small jump for him.

"There were a lot of jumps in people’s backyards," Wright said.

Both men grew up in Berlin and ski jumped from an early age. Pelchat still lives in Berlin while Wight now lives in Maine. Both recalled Dan Paulsen who coached many of the kids as part of the Norsemen Ski Club.

A number of the ski jumps were on land owned by Alf Halvorson, an avid skier and jumper and a tireless promoter of the sport. He was one of the founders of the U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Association.

An assistant coach for the Olympic Ski Team in 1932, Halvorson’s dream was to bring Olympic ski jumping to Berlin. As district supervisor of the National Youth Administration program during the depression, Halvorson oversaw the building of the current Nansen Ski Jump. The 80-meter jump was the largest ski jump of its day, with a 171.5-foot tower.

The year after opening, the jump hosted the Olympic trials, attracting thousands of spectators as well as a national radio audience. But World War II intervened, and there were no 1940 or 1944 Olympic games.

Scott Halvorson said his grandfather was involved in lots of projects but said the Nansen was probably his proudest accomplishment. He described his grandfather as someone who always had plans and a way of getting things done.

"He did not move fast, but his mind was going a mile a minute," Scott Halvorson said.

Like many youth growing up in Norwegian Village, 93-year old Downing Nelson learned to jump at a young age and was part of his high school ski jumping team, which used the smaller 12th Street jump. In 1941, his high school team won the state championship. He served in World War II and was back living in Berlin after the war when he and a friend, Reggie Batchelder, decided one day to jump off Nansen. The pair walked, carrying their skis from Berlin to the jump to try their luck.

Understandably scared, Nelson said he took off from the starting point about three quarters of the way to the top and missed the take off on his first jump. He went up for a second run. This time, he said he hit the take-off and got halfway down the hill before wiping out.

"The hill got me," he said.

It also broke one of his skis and his jumping days were over. He eventually left the area but returned here to retire.

Jumping at Nansen continued with competitions during the club’s winter festivals. In 1965, Nansen hosted the U.S. National Championships. Competing in the junior class division was Robert Remington, a sophomore at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine. Remington wrote about his experience at that race in a book he wrote with his brother Tom about their jumping days.

He said he was scheduled as the last junior jumper — an advantage because the track got faster as the day wore on. Jumping ahead of him was Adrian Watt, the eventually winner that day, and behind him was John Balfanz, the reigning senior national champion. Sandwiched between the two, Remington said he figured he would be lucky if the judges noticed him at all. As the three stood at the top in order, Remington said he bent down to buckle his boots and heard an unusual sound.

"I stood erect and twisted around to discover the dynamic duo of Watt and Balfanz retching over the rail at the back of the tower. Any amount of composure that had existed within me being nearly evaporated," he said.

Getting the jump ready for such events was a major undertaking. Wight said his father and as many as 100 to 200 members of the Nansen Ski Club would take two weeks of vacation time to work on the jump before a meet. Pelchat and Wight described how snow would be trucked to the site and a crane would lift the snow into a box so it could be winched up to the in-run and take off. The in-run and the take-off had to be perfect for the safety of jumpers going off at speeds reaching 60 mph. The landing also had to be carefully prepared. Skiers would pack down the hill side-stepping up in their skis.

During competitions, skiers would walk up the hill between jumps and Wight said it could be a treacherous climb carrying a pair of seven-foot long skis. One time, his binding broke as he got to the tower and he had to climb all the way down to get a screwdriver out of car and climb back up.

Mark Emery grew up in Groveton, and his father would take the family watch the jumps in Berlin.

"I said I’m going to go off the jump," Emery said, even though Groveton did not have a ski jumping team.

He eventually joined the jumping team in college and tried out for the 1980 Olympic team. As a competitive skier, he jumped at Nansen in the '70s. Emery said every jump has its own personality and Nansen was known as an older style jump even 40 years ago.

"The hill was old when we were on it," he noted.

The Nansen jump is high where modern jumps are closer to the ground. It also has a very long takeoff with only three starting points. Emery said it is a long ride down from the starting point to the take off.

Technique and equipment have changed since the jump was built in the 1930s and continue to evolve today. In the early days, jumpers had their arms out and skied with their skis straight in front. Now the arms are flat and skis are split in a V formation.

Still, all three former jumpers say not much compares with the thrill of jumping.

"There is nothing like going off a ski jump," Wight said. "It’s a beautiful ride through the air."

As you go off the Nansen jump, Pelchat said, you are immediately hit with a "wall of pressure" that you lean into before you hit a dead zone where you just hang in the air. As you start to drop, if you are lucky, he said, you hit a second wall of pressure that provides the distance jumpers seek.
Wight said someone once described jumping as the closest man can come to flying with the least amount of equipment.

"You get this feeling of flying," he said.

Decades later, Wight said he can still remember everything about his first jump on Nansen.

"That first jump was probably the most exciting day of my life," he said.

"It was a blast," Emery said of his ski jumping days. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie of the jumping community.

Asked if they had some advise for Hendrickson, the trio urged caution.

"Tell her not to try and break a record. It’s a tricky hill," said Pelchat.

Wight warned that the jump is different than what Hendrickson is used to jumping on.

"She has no idea how high in the air that jump is going to send her," he said.

Emery said she will find the take-off long but said Hendrickson has skied bigger hills. He said she should have a fun jump.

For hundreds of people who jumped or watched jumping at Nansen, for one day, history will come alive. Scott Halvorson said no one would be happier than his grandfather to see the jump used again.

"He would be thrilled to death," he said.