Mike Pelchat retires as Mount Washington State Park manager

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun

CAMPTON — Mike Pelchat of Gorham, manager of the Mount Washington State Park, retired on Oct. 31 from his longtime post, said Director Phil Bryce of the state Division of Parks and Recreation at the Dec. 15 Mount Washington Commission meeting.

“He wouldn’t let us give him a party or mark his retirement in any way,” Bryce said.

Nate Camille, who was hired as assistant park manager in 2013, is now running the operation, the director said. A draft was shared of a job description for a new manager who is likely to be appointed before the summer season.

The responsibilities detailed are based on Division of Parks and Recreation priorities: safety, fiduciary, compliance, stewardship, customer service, relationships and organizational health. The Mount Washington post on the park system’s flagship calls for a lot of interaction with operating partners, other state agencies, non-for-profit governmental organizations, and local communities, Bryce pointed out.

The extent of specialized training for search-and-rescue activities that park employees should be provided is now under discussion. The state Fish and Game Department has statutory authority as the lead agency for conducting search-and-rescue missions within the woodlands and inland waterways across the state.

Pelchat has been a very active and effective volunteer in Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue.

Auto Road general manager Howie Wemyss reported that the attraction drew roughly 178,000 customers, 21 percent more than in 2015, even though growing the numbers has not been its prime goal. Operations ran smoothly, he said, except for some unfortunate traffic tie-ups on Route 16.

The 2017 Mount Washington Hillclimb, scheduled on July 6-9, 2017, recently announced that Subaru of America will return as Title Sponsor of this historic motor-sports event, first run 122 years ago in 1904 and last run in 2014.

Ground will be broken for the new Glen House hotel in April, with the expectation that it will welcome its first guests in May 2018, Wemyss said, noting that the delay provided time for better design features.

Cog Railway president Wayne Presby said that the historic railroad had set a new record this year with 111,800 riders. Six biodiesel locomotives, all 20 percent powered by “green” fuel, are now in the Cog’s fleet and another AirRide coach is being constructed, complete with climate control and soundproofing. Parking spaces have been doubled.

Mt. Washington Observatory president Sharon Schilling, who took up her duties three months ago, said that Discovery Museum and gift shop visits were down, primarily because of the unusually pleasant weather outside. The Obs’ focus, she explained, is now on re-energizing the Observatory's education and research components, including checking out a hypothesis that the mountain’s variable exposure to two distinct horizontal layers in the atmosphere — the boundary layer and the overlying free troposphere — drives a significant portion of this elevation-dependent warming. In New England, Mount Washington and Mount Mansfield are warming more slowly than the lower elevations.

WMNF Ecosystem Team Leader Roger Simmons reported that only 50 pounds of invasive dandelions were removed this summer in Sargent’s Purchase, in sharp contrast to the 200 pounds removed in 2015. The New England Wildflower Society will be among the groups assisting in the work in 2017, he said. The removal project is designed to eliminate the threat of displacement native alpine plants, including by expanding into other patches of alpine vegetation.

Appalachian Mountain Club huts manager James Wrigley reported that the club has withdrawn its controversial proposal for a new hikers hut in Crawford Notch State Park, based on more than a year of study and careful consideration of comments received during the state-required public scoping process.

The Bay-State-based AMC sold its longtime Beacon Hill headquarters on Joy Street in Boston, Mass., for $15 million and purchased the 10 City Square building on the Freedom Trail in Charlestown for $13.1 million. It will occupy about half the building and rent out the remainder.