Mass. DCR Keeps People Away from a Deserted Ski Trail

The home page of Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation flashes scenic pictures proclaiming “It’s Your Nature.”

That is, unless it’s Mount Wachusett. The mountain dominates the central Massachusetts landscape, and is public land, administered by the state DCR. But since 1962, the Crowley family has been merrily carving up the east side of the mountain for their ski area. What started out as a small family-run ski lift, has mushroomed into a major scar with state-of-the-art lifts going all the way to the summit.

Crying poverty as they laugh all the way to the bank, the Crowleys have justified each expansion on the grounds that they’re necessary for them to stay in business. Instead of looking out for the public’s interest, the DCR seems more interested in accommodating the ski area.

The sign pictured above is at the summit, at the off-ramp to one of the ski lifts. It puts the authority of the DCR to keep hikers off the ski trails, with a touching concern for the fragile watershed.

This is a place that has clear-cut one side of a mountain; has tons of maintenance equipment riding up and down those slopes; pours on millions of gallons of water to make their snow; a huge lodge to accommodate the thousands of skiers who go there annually; they cleared land for overflow parking areas.

Think of all the fuels, fluids, solvents, and sewage that the place generates, where seepage and spills are inevitable. Where is the concern?

There is a citizen advisory council, ostensibly a forum for public input on matters concerning the mountain.
But, in 2007 when the ski area and DCR agreed to a new 30-year lease, the negotiations were done in secret, and the advisory council didn’t hear about it until it was a done deal. The new lease included re-drawing the boundaries of the ski area. It seems the boundaries were never clearly surveyed and mapped out, and in that time the ski area had expanded outside its original limits.

The ski area generously offered to draw up new maps and the areas that had been in violation were – unsurprisingly – up within the ski area’s new boundaries.

So how much does this multi-million dollar business pay to the state each year in return for this lease?

That’s not an easy question to answer. It doesn’t show up anywhere in a cursory search on the internet. I won’t claim it as a thorough search at this point, but if anyone knows where I should look, let me know. I’m going to keep looking, and I’ll post that information as soon as I find out.

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