Inside the AMC's Controversial Plan to Build a New Hut

Sparkling Cascade would be the Appalachian Mountain Club's first new hut in fifty years. But some locals — and a state agency — are coming out against it.
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Sparkling Cascade would be the Appalachian Mountain Club's first new hut in fifty years. But some locals — and a state agency — are coming out against it.
greenleaf

The AMC's Greenleaf Hut. (Photo by Tim Sackton/Flickr)

More than half a century has passed since the Appalachian Mountain Club built its last hut. Now, a proposal by the group to construct a new lodge in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch State Park has some hikers and climbers – and a state agency – up in arms.

If approved, the Sparkling Cascade hut would house about 50 visitors at a time, as well as staff members. The hike to the hut would be short – less than two miles – and the group would construct a new parking lot at the trailhead with room for 30 to 50 cars. The location would put Sparkling Cascade between two existing huts, and a path would link it to the Appalachian Trail.

“Our last hut was built 50 years ago, and in that time, visitation to the huts has tripled,” the AMC said in a statement on their website. A new hut in Crawford Notch will help to meet public demand and, because of its accessible location, 1.7 miles from the roadside trailhead, it will allow us to introduce new users, and a new generation, to the outdoors.”

Besides opening up new trip opportunities, the AMC says that a new hut could bring new economic possibilities to the area. According to a study by Daniel S. Lee, an economics professor at Plymouth State University, out-of-state visitors who stayed at a hut in New Hampshire contributed nearly $18 million to the economy.

But not all locals are convinced, with some alleging that a new hut would erode the wilderness character of the park, worsen crowding in the area, and favor wealthy tourists who can afford the pricey rates (other huts charge $100 or more per night during the high season). Among those expressing concern are Laura Waterman, the co-author with her late husband Guy of Forest and Crag, and the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, which has highlighted the potential environmental impact of the project.

Christopher Magness, a local mountain guide who is "vehemently opposed" to any new construction in Crawford Notch or the nearby White Mountain National Forest, started a petition against the plan. In an email, Magness said that nearby residents are overwhelmingly against the hut, with concerns ranging from police and fire protection to parking.

“I spend 30 or so days a year in Crawford Notch, it’s a special place to me," he said. "I’d like to see it preserved."

It’s not clear how long the proposal, now under consideration by the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development, would take to complete. But the AMC’s vice president of outdoor operations, Paul Cunha, told the Associated Press that the non-profit was already looking at a “variety of options,” including alternative locations, to mitigate public concerns about the project. The group expects to have a revised plan ready by fall.