My Turn: I can see for miles; I don’t want to see Northern Pass

  • A runner makes his way up the Mount Washington Auto Road on June 21, 2014. Jim Cole

For the Monitor
Published: 9/3/2017 12:15:04 AM

As general manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road for the past 30 years, I like to think that I have a fairly decent handle on New Hampshire’s tourism business and what people are coming to see.

And one thing I can tell you for certain is that people are not traveling to the summit of Mount Washington hoping to see Northern Pass.

I’ve been reading with fascination the testimony of the tourism expert hired by Northern Pass, and have concluded that he does not understand tourism, at least as it plays out in Northern New Hampshire on a real-life basis.

Particularly I take issue with his statement on more than one occasion that “traffic or construction delays are part of the traveling experience.”

Certainly delays are not a positive part of the experience, and if agencies like the American Automobile Association are warning people of construction delays along the Northern Pass construction corridor, people are going to change their travel plans to a location that will not have these predicted, built-in delays.

We lived with this at the Auto Road when the traffic through North Conway was congested for years and years, and AAA was advising people to avoid North Conway altogether. Of course this had a negative effect on our business.

I’m also frustrated that the final Northern Pass Environmental Impact Statement released in August states that no study has been conducted to weigh the potential impacts of transmission lines on tourism in New Hampshire. This alone seems odd since tourism plays such an enormous part in our economy, especially in the North Country. Wouldn’t we want to study the effects of this transmission project on tourism given that tourism is New Hampshire’s second largest industry?

But let’s be clear on one thing, the most important driver of tourism in Northern New Hampshire is our renowned scenic beauty.

From the early 1800s, when the northern parts of the state were first being discovered by tourists, it was the haunting beauty of the mountains, the rivers and the valleys that drew national attention to the White Mountains and regions north.

With artists sketching and painting these scenes, then displaying them in the metropolitan areas of the day, tourism took off in our northern regions. It is imperative that we do not degrade these scenic vistas that have been so important to us for so long.

Closer to home, I’m very concerned with the degradation of the view shed from Mount Washington. As far as I can tell, there has been no consideration at all of how this proposed path of deforestation with steel structures towering over the surrounding forests will affect the views from Mount Washington.

Northern Pass in any of its forms will do nothing but degrade the experience of visiting the North Country. It is unnecessary, unwanted by nearly every community on its route, and it will be extremely harmful to the North Country economy. I hope the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee will have a clear view of just how bad Northern Pass is for New Hampshire.

(Howie Wemyss is the general manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road.)

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