Summit House will reopen on Saturday

HADLEY — A newly refurbished Mount Holyoke Summit House in J.A. Skinner State Park will reopen to visitors this weekend for the first time since 2010, ending a marathon of construction delays that plagued the project and frustrated area residents the past two years.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation announced Friday that the historic building and porch will open for the season on Saturday beginning at noon. The structures have been closed to the public since 2010 while the state agency undertook repairs and improved access to the former 19th-century mountaintop hotel and surrounding parking lot.

“We’re thrilled to have it reopen and we know the community out there has been itching for it,” said William Hickey, a spokesman for the state agency.

Among those glad to see the project done are members of the volunteer group, Friends of the Mount Holyoke Range, which has been pushing the state to see the project through.

“It’s really a relief,” said Jon Steinberg, the group’s secretary. “It’s been a struggle. There always seemed like there was something else. We just had to wait it out.”

Although the Summit House has been inaccessible to the public during the entirety of the project, visitors were able to access the porch beginning last fall. The porch commands spectacular, panoramic views across the Connecticut River Valley.

The former hotel in J.A. Skinner State Park is a popular destination for hikers and tourists and is one of the state’s showpiece recreational venues. It was closed in spring 2010 after a state inspector and engineer identified structural deficiencies in the building’s porch. It was scheduled to reopen in 2012, but a combination of bid errors and various construction delays pushed the $1 million-plus project’s completion to 2013 — and again to spring 2014.

The major delays involved ripping out a newly installed glass-infused wood product called TimberSil and replacing it with a more common pressure-treated wood. The state twice hired wood science specialists who concluded that paint would not stick to the TimberSil wood primarily because of its high moisture content. The state also encountered problems communicating with the product’s manufacturer, Timber Treatment Technologies of Greenville, S.C., which furthered the delays.

Improvements visitors will see this spring include porch repairs, new decking and railings, and upgrades to basement rest rooms. A new exterior handicapped accessible ramp has been installed and access barriers inside the former hotel eliminated. The Summit House porch and grounds were not previously handicapped accessible.

Other improvements include a new access road to handicapped parking, a new picnic area and accessible routes to the building’s ramp and rest rooms.

If you go

The Summit House porch will be open daily from dawn to dusk.

The Summit House interior will be open Saturdays, Sunday and holidays from June 14 through Labor Day weekend from noon to 6:30 p.m. Interpretive guided tours of the house will be offered at 1, 3 and 5 and rest rooms are open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

From Labor Day weekend through Columbus Day, the Summit House will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and interpretive guided tours will be offered at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., according to the state agency.

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

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