More than 100 people packed the lodge at Mount Sunapee Resort Wednesday night to hear from state officials about a proposed lease transfer of Sunapee State Park land.
Colorado-based Vail resorts, which announced its purchase of the Sunapee Resort last month, would need New Hampshire’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to sign off on the transfer of the lease from its current holder.
Vail faced questions from several concerned residents about its plans for the area.
“It’s vitally important for the proposed new operator and leaseholder to support balanced use of our park,” said Steve Russell, president of Friend of Mount Sunapee. “Continuing to provide non-fee-based and affordable outdoor recreation while preserving Mount Sunapee’s ancient forests are both achievable goals.”
Others echoed a tone of caution on the Vail takeover.
"I just want to preserve what's here,” said Joe Lagasse, who said his father has worked at Sunapee for decades. Lagasse said he wants the place to retain its small-town feel.
“I don't really care if the Sunapee Lodge becomes six stories and has condominiums at the top," he said. "I want the same people."
Vail says it currently doesn’t have any plans to expand the resort.
“We do not intend to develop real estate here at Mount Sunapee,” said Pat Campbell, president of the Mountain Division for Vail resorts.
Several longtime Sunapee residents said they saw the Vail purchase as an economic generator.
“Vail brings both ski industry expertise and access to capital, candidly, Vail is a dream partner,” said Hess Gates of Sunapee.
Some in attendance hoped Vail would bring more jobs to the area.
Still, looking back on the past two decades of the Sunapee State Park lease, some at the event called into question the efficacy of the agreement.
"I'm a great advocate of public land, I feel that it's not right to have it leased to a private company,” said Katie Lajoie of Charlestown. “This is our land, this is not to make profits for corporations."
Lajoie said she’d like to have a more formal public hearing in the future instead of Wednesday night's public information session.
New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said he would like to keep the approval process as transparent as possible. “I personally would like to see a decision made by Labor Day, but at the very outside limit, October 1,” MacDonald said. “When a decision is made, we will have another public session.”