March 26, 2014MOUNT WASHINGTON — Senator Jeff Woodburn of Dalton organized a trip on Friday up the Mount Washington Auto Road, designed to introduce two of his colleagues — Senator Jeanie Forrester of Meredith and Senator Andrew Hosmer of Laconia plus District 1 Executive Councilor-elect Joe Kenney of Wakefield — to the public-private partnership that makes Mount Washington State Park unique in the Granite State.
Auto Road cafeteria cooks provided a hearty lunch before 17 people climbed into two snow cats to attempt to ride up the eight-mile Auto Road, despite low visibility and 70- to 90-mile-an-hour winds at the summit. The harsh conditions, however, forced the group to turn around and return to the Base at the end of Five-Mile, Mount Washington State Park manager Mike Pelchat reported in a Sunday morning phone conversation.
"It was a rough ride and a reminder of nature's awesome power," Woodburn wrote in an e-mail exchange. "One snow cat broke down, and some of the passengers piled into the other snow cat. We got about two-thirds of the way up the mountain but had to turn back because of weather conditions. The winds were around 90 m.p.h. There were some nervous moments, but we were in the safe hands of State Park manager Mike Pelchat, who drove the cat.
"Still," Woodburn explained," it was a great trip and as always the key is introducing the North Country, building relationships and gathering good information."
Stakeholders in the public-private partnership were well represented.
Department of Resources and Economic (DRED) commissioner Jeff Rose, Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce, formerly of Milan, and Park manager Mike Pelchat of Gorham represented the state side. No one was on hand to represent the White Mountain National Forest through which the Auto Road winds.
Auto Road manager Howie Wemyss of Randolph, Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) senior vice president Walter Graff, also of Randolph, AMC vice president of conservation Susan Arnold, Mount Washington Observatory (MWOBS) executive director Scot Henley and OBS trustee Ken Jones. Mt. Washington Cog Railway president Wayne Presby was in Washington, D.C.
Jamie Trowbridge, president-CEO of Yankee Publishing, Inc., and editor Rick Broussard of "New Hampshire Magazine", represented New Hampshire's magazine world. Harry Brown of Stewartstown, president of the North Country ATV Coalition, was also on hand.
Right after lunch Henley updated everyone on the progress made to replace the Observatory's dated museum for which the nonprofit organization raised nearly $1 million. "There is now a big empty space in the Sherman Adams Summit Building," he said, adding that the Obs had contracted with AMC for its construction crew to demolish the existing setup, stripping it down right to the studs.
The exhibits for the new interactive educational experience — "Extreme Mount Washington" — are now being built in Boston, Henley said. A ribbon-cutting will be held later this spring.
The old museum drew more than 100,000 visitors a year, making it the most visited museum in the state. "This will be one of the most significant improvements to the visitor experience in decades," Henley said. Go to "extreme.mountwashington.org" to see great Obs photos and exhibit details.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway is also planning some major upgrades (see related article) at the summit, starting in the spring to be completed in 2015.