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Hearing for Nash Stream State Forest split over ATV use

  • 02/23/2017 8:28 AM
    Message # 4628351
    Anonymous

    Hearing on new management plan for Nash Stream State Forest split over ATV use

    By Barbara Tetreault
    Berlin Daily Sun

    February 20, 2017

    WHITEFIELD — ATV use on Nash Stream State Forest was the main focus of comments at last Thursday’s public hearing on the new draft management plan for the 40,000-acre tract.

    The crowd appeared evenly split between those asking that no additional ATV trails be allowed on the property and ATV enthusiasts requesting as many as three more trails be allowed on the perimeter of the property.

    There are currently two ATV trails on Nash Stream State Forest. The 7.6-mile West Side connector trail, built in 2002 and granted permanent status in 2009. There is a second trail, the 4-mile Kelsey Notch Trail built three years ago as a pilot trail.

    The legality of both trails was questioned last year by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Nature Conservancy. The state Council on Resources and Development ruled the West Side Trail was legal. But CORD asked for more information on the Kelsey Notch Trail and has ruled it will provisionally re-open this spring for a three-year period and then make a determination.

    Representing the Nash Stream OHRV Task Force and the North Country OHRV Coalition, Larry Gomes suggested the more accurate term is OHRV and asked that the plan use that terminology. He said the groups are requesting both the West Side and Kelsey Notch Trails be designated as permanent trails.

    They asked that the new plan also include provisions for three additional OHRV trails. One would be a 1.3-mile Southern Connector connecting the West Side trail to the southern boundary to allow ATVers to access local services and trails. A second new trail would be a 6-3 mile East-West Corridor to take OHRV traffic off the town of Stark’s road system. And finally, Gomes said the groups would like a 1.3-mile East-West Corridor that would follow an existing snowmobile trail to the eastern boundary of the forest.

    He pointed out that all of the trails are along the perimeter of the property, preserving the interior for traditional uses such as hunting and fishing. Gomes said the acreage of current and proposed OHRV trails, gravel roads, snowmobile and hiking trails totals 528 acres or 1.3 percent of the Nash Stream forest.

    “Our trails don’t go into the heart of Nash Stream,” emphasized Ted Burns of Stratford.

    Burns said the requested trails would help get ATVs off state and town roads. He said the trails also open up the state forest to people with disabilities or health issues.

    Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said he does not own or ride an ATV but believes they are an economic boost for Coos County. He said motorized recreation has helped northern New Hampshire survive the closing of its miles. He argued Nash Stream is big enough to accommodate ATVs as well as more traditional recreational users.

    “There’s enough to share,” he said.

    Will Abbot of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests presented a joint letter from his organization, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Nature Conservancy opposing additional ATV trails. The three organizations last year challenged the legality of the two existing ATV trails in Nash Stream.

    Abbott said the Nash Stream property did not allow ATV use even before the state purchased it. He asked that the state stick to the vision in the original master plan and not allow additional ATV trails. Abbott said the three organizations are committed to assisting the region with developing a long-range plan for all recreational trails.

    One speaker said the noise generated by ATVs takes away from the enjoyment of people using the forest for hunting, fishing and hiking. She said people come to Nash Stream to walk in the woods or enjoy the peace and quiet at the remote camps that dot the forest.

    Environmental activist Jamie Sayen of Stratford raised other issues with the proposed management plan. He said it should be withdrawn until it addresses the issue of climate change. He said it also opens the door to heavier timber cutting and more intensive logging.

    One local man advocated for more educational programs on the forest.

    About 50 people turned out for the hearing at White Mountain Regional High School — the second of two hearings on the plan and the only one in the North Country.

    It has been over 20 years since the original management plan for New Hampshire’s largest state forest was approved and state Resources and Economic Development Commissioner Jeffrey Rose said he was pleased to see so much public engagement in the planning process.

    State Director of Forest and Lands Brad Simpkins said the 1995 plan set three main goals: maintain the property as a working forest producing high quality forest products, continue to allow recreational access and protect the natural beauty and ecological values of the tract. The original management plan did not allow any ATV use on the property.

    Written comments of the draft management plan be accepted on the draft management plan until the close of business on Friday, March 3, and can be provided in person at the public sessions, sent via email to nashstreamplan@dred.nh.gov, or in writing to: Director Brad Simpkins, Attention Nash Stream Plan, NH Division of Forests and Lands, 172 Pembroke Rd, Concord, 03301.

    Simpkins said all of the public comments received would be reviewed and catalogued. Any changes in the plan will be reviewed with the Nash Stream Citizens Advisory Committee and CORD. The final plan approval rests with Commissioner Rose.

     

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