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Parking proves a sore point atop Mount Washington

Union Leader Correspondent

September 26. 2018 9:11AM
A look toward the south from the siding of the Cog Railway atop Mount Washington showing the Cog's right-of-way and its proximity to the Mount Washington Auto Road's Stage Office. (John Koziol)

MOUNT WASHINGTON — To avoid having them physically blocked in, the Mount Washington Observatory has moved its vehicles from a Cog Railway right-of-way within Mount Washington State Park.

Sharon Schilling, the observatory’s president, said Tuesday that Cog owner Wayne Presby had twice warned her that the vehicles — a van and a pickup — were parked illegally in the right-of-way and “he would block them in” using concrete barriers.

The right-of-way extends behind and past the Mount Washington Auto Road’s Stage Office.

Schilling said the observatory has been parking its vehicles near the Yankee Building on the southern end of the summit at the suggestion of the state, with which the observatory has a lease to use a portion of the Sherman Adams Building.

The top of the tallest peak in the Northeast has been the scene of an ongoing squabble among the observatory, the Auto Road and the Cog, with the latter two offering competing opinions on who owns what.

In April, the Mount Washington Commission directed its counsel, K. Allen Brooks, to investigate and prepare a report.

Released to the public on Sept. 18, the report confirms that the state — with the exception of a parcel owned by the Cog — owns nearly all of the 60-acre summit cone that is Mount Washington State Park, including the land on which the railway has a right-of-way.

Presby alleges that both the Auto Road and observatory, have trespassed into that right-of-way, including in front of the Sherman Adams Building, where it created a safety hazard for people getting on and off Cog trains.

Schilling and Howie Wemyss, the Auto Road’s general manager, said Tuesday that neither of their vehicles parks there and when they had done so, it was at the direction of the state and only for brief periods.

Wemyss pointed out that Brooks in his report wrote that he could not definitively determine ownership, adding that it was something that could only be done by a judge as part of a superior court lawsuit.

“We’re not being harmed right now,” Wemyss said, “but we object to people claiming rights that they don’t have.”

He wants the state to be more assertive of its rights.

“The state has to have an opinion on this,” said Wemyss, noting its inaction has perpetuated the disagreement among the Cog, Auto Road and observatory.

Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce said in an e-mail that he will be reviewing the Brooks report as well as operational issues in the park with the park’s newly hired manager prior to the Mount Washington Commission’s next meeting.

Walter Graff, president of the Appalachian Mountain Club and chair of the commission, was unavailable for comment.

Public Safety Mt. Washington

Market Fair and Militia Muster
Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.

Harvest Music Festival
Saturday, 4-9 p.m.

The Enchanted Forest
Friday-Saturday, 5 - 9 p.m.

Livingston Taylor
Saturday, 8 p.m.