Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's Dec. 15 "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.com.
The owner of the famous Mt. Washington Cog Railway, Wayne Presby, wants to build a luxury hotel, along or even over its tracks, at about 5,000 feet up New England’s highest peak (6,288 feet).
This has inevitably caused a rumpus. Hikers complain that the hotel will degrade their experience on the mountain, whose summit is now crowded in the summer with climbers and people silly enough to ruin their brakes and transmissions by driving there. (In my healthier times long ago, I climbed it in the winter, when it’s more beautiful, albeit a tad nippy and breezy, than in its over-populated summer.)
Some locals are pushing back against the complaining greenies, many of whom are from out of state, saying that since tourism is the lifeblood of the White Mountains, the hotel should be allowed. I’m a former resident of New Hampshire and understand the tourism imperative but I think that building the hotel will, in the long run, hurt tourism by sending hikers and others bearing money elsewhere in search of a less sullied nature – maybe across the nearby border to Canada.
Yes, there was a hotel on top of the mountain in Victorian and Edwardian times but there was a lot more available nature in the region those days, before most people had cars and the invention of ski lifts.
The whole thing reminds me of current successful efforts to let companies turn some of our National Parks into major advertising venues. Thus it will get even harder to get away from the images and cacophony of commercialism in order to quietly reflect on life while enjoying the beauty of things so much bigger than loud, unreliable, anxious and grasping humanity.