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Patricia "Ricia" McMahon
State Representative
District 3


October 6,  2010

Representative McMahon is a member of the House Executive Department & Administration Committee, and represents the towns of Newbury and Sutton.

New Hampshire State Parks must be a priority for the legislature in the next session. 

In 1990 the legislature and Governor determined that the parks should be self-funded and the parks such as Wadleigh, Winslow and Rollins have been in deficit ever since. Last year the plan to dispose of some parks failed because of an outcry from our citizens. However the grim financial situation continues to create an environment of deterioration and promotes a variety of schemes for monetizing the parks.

The State Parks Advisory Commission (SPAC) grapples with a new plan for the parks that covers the next 10 years. 

SPAC was created to suggest ways to improve the situation for the parks and to encourage "Friends" Groups or other partners to assist in maintaining and caring for the parks. Now, an important step by the state will be to hire a volunteer coordinator to facilitate activities and to promote and support the parks and their friends.

As part of the deliberations this summer, SPAC members have participated in the interim study of several important bills to address the future of the parks in general, and specific concerns about funding, leasing and the management and oversight of specific parks that generate revenues.

Representative Sue Gottling of Sunapee spearheads the study to create a Department of Natural Resources which would liberate the Parks, Trails and Forests from the umbrella of DRED, the state agency that focuses on economic development. DRED (Department of Resources and Economic Development) is responsible for bringing business to NH including increased international trade, economic success throughout the state, including the North Country, and promoting travel/tourism plus the favorable financial outlook of the state and other related initiatives such as broadband access.

As the prime sponsors, Representative Gottling and I believe more of a focus should be on NHís Natural Resources. The impetus for the bill viewed DRED as a department with an impossible mixed mission of business and development vs conservation and preservation. Over the past two decades DRED Commissioners did not advocate to the legislature for park funding nor advise relevant policy committees. Any request for funds were for other objectives. 

DREDís extremely large portfolio of competing needs prevents the attention and focus on the improvement of most of the parks, unless it is part of the capital budget and has the potential for large revenues (Hampton Beach and Cannon Mountain), in addition to leasing the Mt. Sunapee ski area.

My other interim responsibilities include review of the relationship of the Mount Washington Commission which meets at the Observatory (a private non-profit entity) on the summit of Mount Washington (a State Park). The Commission membership is made up of private business and non-profit organizations. Most of the funds generated by the state park are from leasing space for communications antenna and space for the Observatory's home, which is in one of the state buildings. The leases were renewed very recently, but discussions revealed that the businesses that benefit from customer visitations to the summit have not shared admission ticket fees with the state. These organizations seem reluctant to pay the costs associated with running the state park year round, or to share the state's costs for bonding the electrification and septic system improvements that benefit their customers. AMC hikers and WMNF interests have membership on the Commission but do not contribute funds to defray any costs that may result from visits to the summit by their constituencies.

As questions regarding funds generated by leasing were answered by those providing testimony, we discovered that the summit of Mt Washington is zoned as a state park and those revenues generated there go to a special fund. However, funds generated at other mountain tops such as Kearsarge are not considered part of Rollins or Winslow state parks so those funds are not designated to either park. 

Chairing the committee to review the Mount Washington Commission enlightened us to inconsistent and convoluted funding streams and circuitous leasing patterns that often put the state parks at a disadvantage.

Maintenance and upkeep of our parks for residents and visitors will contribute to an improved local and state economy.

Ricia McMahon
State Representative, Merrimack County District 3
Newbury and Sutton

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