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Summit House to reopen after delayed repairs

  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley with the new handicapped ramp.
  • Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley with the new handicapped ramp.
  • <br/>Steps that are not yet completed a the Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.<br/>
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • <br/>Steps that are still being compleated at the Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley with the new handicapped ramp.
  • Steps that are not yet completed a the Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley with the new handicapped ramp.
  • <br/>Steps that are not yet completed a the Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.<br/>
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley with the new handicapped ramp.
  • CAROL LOLLIS<br/>A view from the Mount Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • <br/>Mt. Holyoke Summit House in Hadley.
  • Do you recognize this Valley location? If so, enter our Mystery Photo contest.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS

The project is one of several state park improvements under way or planned on the Valley’s ranges. Its long-awaited completion will allow visitors to re-enter the former 19th-century hotel and mountaintop showpiece in J.A. Skinner State Park.

“We anticipate that construction will be complete and the porch and building open to the public by May 31,” S.J. Port, a spokeswoman for Department of Conservation and Recreation, told the Gazette. “The contractor will need to return later in the summer to complete painting of some of the wood porch elements.”

The Summit House was closed in spring 2010 after a state inspector and engineer identified structural deficiencies in the building’s porch. It was supposed to reopen last fall, but a combination of bid errors and construction delays pushed the project’s completion to 2013. The state hired Westfield Construction Co. Inc. of New Hampshire and the architectural firm of Clark and Green Inc. of Great Barrington to undertake the project, now pegged at approximately $950,000.

Safety and accessibility improvements at the Summit House had been in the works and the porch safety issues accelerated those plans. Improvements visitors will see this spring include porch repairs, new decking and railings, as well as upgrades to basement restrooms.

A new exterior handicapped accessible ramp has been been installed and access barriers inside the former hotel eliminated. The Summit House porch, which commands a spectacular panoramic view of the Connecticut River Valley, and grounds were not handicapped accessible prior to the project.

Improvements include a new access road to handicapped parking, a new picnic area and accessible routes to the building’s ramp and restrooms. Crews will return this spring to finish building the access ramp and replace some materials, according to DCR.

Project delays

State officials said several unanticipated issues caused delays and cost increases, including a $350,000 jump attributed largely to conditions found while excavating the access road. That led to a redesign of a concrete retaining wall. These delays slowed construction of the Summit House because the excavated road limited access to the building, according to DCR.

Painting mishaps also caused delays during the past year. The moisture content in the wood used for the ramp and porch repairs was too high.

“The contractor ... needed additional time to order replacement wood, and some installed wood will need to be left in an unpainted condition until it dries out,” Port, of DCR, said in an email to the Gazette.

Local hikers and others who frequent Mount Holyoke are thriled that the Summit House will soon re-open and be accessible to those with physical disabilities. The project is on the agenda for Thursday’s session of the Mount Holyoke Range Advisory Committee, which meets at the Notch Visitors Center in Amherst, said its chairwoman, Merle Buckhout of Hadley.

“I’m pleased that they’re finishing it, let’s put it that way,” Buckhout said. “We’ve learned to be cautious. When this happens, we’ll be happy.”

Buckhout said one of the first things she does when visitors are in the area is take them to the Summit House. She said she hopes the Friends of the Mount Holyoke Range, a nonprofit land conservation group that offers hikes and programs throughout the year, will be able to organize its musical concert series again at the landmark building after it opens this year.

Meantime, the Summit House is still in need of repairs despite the latest round of improvements. According to the state’s updated resource management plan for the Mount Holyoke Range, the Summit House’s membrane roof and wooden shingles on the porch’s awnings leak and need to be replaced.

The state agency has classified the building’s condition as “adequate” and in need of “corrective and preventative maintenance.”

J.A. Skinner State Park was established in 1940 and named after Joseph A. Skinner, a local industrialist and philanthropist who donated 375 acres on the range, including the Summit House to the state. The park remains a significant tourist and recreational destination today.

To learn more about the park and is hours of operation, visit the state’s website.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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Legacy Comments1

I have missed access to the Summit House these years and am so excited to see the improvements. It's great that they made it handicapped accessible too ao really all people can enjoy this gem of Western Mass.

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