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Thread: WODC Outlook, May 2009

  1. #121
    Senior Member stopher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HH1 View Post
    To Chris Conrod (aka Stopher0

    Insightful submission in the WODC newsletter.

    In your opinion, where is 'the way forward' here?

    For instance, IF Trail Bandit were to issue a formal apology and a promise to stop the distribution of his current Ossipee trails map, is there anyone or any organization, such as the WODC, he and/or other motivated parties could work with that would also engage the landowners' input and get their subsequent blessings on trail construction, maintenance and trail maps covering off their respective land holdings?

    As it stands, there's obviously an impass here, as I suspect Trail Bandit is the tip of the bootleg trail iceberg.

    By sitting down with 'the bad guys', perhaps through a hired intermediary, the Ossipee landowners might find it is worth making a few compromises that, over the long run, would see their land used by the hiking public, in an appropriate manner that meets the owners' expectations. Any publicity coming out of such an exchange would be beneficial to all as well.

    Question - would you consider being that intermediary?
    Not sure I'm the best person for it. However, I think this is a good opportunity to state my admiration for Lakes Region Conservation Trust. They were certainly one of the aggrieved parties. They had their trail management plan all screwed up when someone cleared some trails that LRCT determined were best left closed and then the MAP was published. I am no insider there but I’ve heard that LRCT and Mr. Garrison have sat down together and made the best of a tricky situation. My hat is off to LRCT for doing this.

    However, the other landowners are not a non-profit group dedicated to land conservation with compatible public recreation. They’re just a bunch of people who try to be good land stewards and who kept their land open to public access in spite of the fact that they had to deal with fire rings, flagging lines, and the occasional trail clearing. It’s a lot busier in the Ossipees than most people think. The map just pushed them over the top. Or maybe it was finding Mr. Garrison GPSing their woods roads and when they asked him what he was doing, he told them he was making a map. And after they told him they didn’t want a map, they found out he made and distributed it anyway, with a warning to look out for crabby landowners. I think the dust has to settle first, and then it will be a slow persuasion done one by one.

    I want you to know that some of these landowners have done considerable volunteer work toward land conservation and public trail access. They worked and do work with reputable organizations to provide public recreational access to our local forests. One family has a long history of civic involvement that includes donations and bargain sales of protected, public access, conservation land that includes trails. I don’t think they made their decision lightly. I don’t think I have anything to tell them that would instantly change their mind.

    Am I willing to help? You betcha. Do I have the solution? Certainly not an instantaneous one. We hikers have to demonstrate that we’re not more bother than we’re worth. We should be asking permission from the landowner before entering the property (or at the minimum, knowing the landowner’s preference concerning public usage). We should be camping only where it is specifically allowed and not making assumptions. We shouldn’t be altering the terrain or the vegetation. We shouldn’t be promoting a hiking trail with the advice to ignore the no trespassing signs. We shouldn’t be mapping private property without permission. I shouldn’t have to be saying this.
    stopher will become infamous soon enough.

  2. #122
    Senior Member --M.'s Avatar
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    Wow, gotta disagree with you there, Amicus.

    If you are referring to my post recognizing TB's 'conciliatory words,' then I would say that I wanted to recognize that a turn had been made in the discussion and that we could move forward to a next phase; a side-debate was bubbling. This might even have spared some from further criticism. And I guess 'combativeness' is in the eye of the beholder and we'll have to disagree on who's got what plank and splinter in the eyes. This discussion of insisted-upon "rights" is starting to smell bad.

    I also disagree with the continued framing of the issues in terms of "good guys" and "bad guys." It seems odd to me that no new legal or cultural concepts are being debated, but nonetheless some hikers seem late to the party of how to deal with private property. I was trained on it early and often as an angler, golfer, and wanderer of lands not mine. Why is it so strange that someone might own the land you want to walk on? What kind of arrogance would I have to drive up to someone's home and just walk through? It's not my home to walk through.

    As for what TB should or shouldn't do, it's his to figure out and I won't presume. It is nonetheless valuable to discuss what would improve the situation, irrespective of specific personalities. This issue has both immediate relevance and implications for down-the-road. There's no reason why options shouldn't be debated in this version of the public square. The interested parties are here! And if someone else should want to say what they think should happen, I'm fine with that.

    I've had a sneaking suspicion during this process that some subscribe to a school of thought expressed during the thirties, a kind of Woody Guthrie / civil disobedience / this land is my land thing, wherein one doesn't actually recognize boundaries or private land. If that's the case, I'd like to hear so explicitly, so we can get it out of the way, because it's literally out of line.

    There is potential for growth and evolution in this discussion, especially if both hikers AND landowners are participating. It's not inconceivable to me that one could eventually hike the affected area with map in hand.

    Get it together and figure it out.

  3. #123
    Senior Member TEO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stinkyfeet View Post
    IMO, comparing the Mt. Cabot Trail issue to the Ossipee situation is like comparing apples and oranges. ...Regarding the Ossipee map, I know only what I've read here, but it sounds like a very different situation.
    I agree completely. I was merely following and contributing to a thread drift.

  4. #124
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Metsky View Post
    As far as I know, the majority of the trails through private land in NH do not rely on right-of-ways, they rely on the goodwill of the land owners. Does anyone know how many trails actually rely on deeded right-of-ways?
    All of the land that is now the WMNF was once privately owned, and the owners got to their land somehow, usually through public rights-of-way which became roads and then often reverted to paths or forest. These were reserved (often to the King of England) when the land was originally granted as towns and then as lots. (Look at maps of towns for range roads.) When the WMNF acquired the lands it acquired those rights to access them. Of course they might not be usable or where present trails are.

    As I understand it, there was no doubt that the public had the right to use the old trail to Dianas Baths for instance, there were just too many visitors to park on the roadside and the property owners would not sell any land to the FS. Hence the FS built a new trail with a parking lot.

  5. #125
    Member bristlecone's Avatar
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    Route information has consequences.

    Word-of-mouth alone can increase usage of a place; open, searchable forums and websites much more so by many orders of magnitude. Maps and GPS tracks occupy just the more detailed, explicit end of a spectrum of route information that is put out there.

    Some places are just better suited to handle heavy usage than others. Usage can exceed many thresholds - thresholds of habitat and erosion, of wilderness feeling, of landowner goodwill.

    I have found much of this discussion to be quite informative and thoughtful, and am glad that it is happening on an open forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by chomp View Post
    Removing this map immediately from the site and the internet would be a good first step and hopefully seen as a olive branch to the private landowners that were not happy with its publication.
    Agreed.

    Although as has been said, a great deal of toothpaste seems to be well out of the tube. A hundred people may let the toothpaste tube lie, but if the next person squeezes, the toothpaste is out - and the internet has a way of keeping it out.

  6. #126
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by --M. View Post
    I've had a sneaking suspicion during this process that some subscribe to a school of thought expressed during the thirties, a kind of Woody Guthrie / civil disobedience / this land is my land thing, wherein one doesn't actually recognize boundaries or private land. If that's the case, I'd like to hear so explicitly, so we can get it out of the way, because it's literally out of line.
    For the record, I do support the rights of private landowners to control access to their land. But I'm not sure why Woody Guthrie and others shouldn't be allowed to disagree and work peacefully for a change in the law.

    Quote Originally Posted by bristlecone View Post
    Route information has consequences.
    ...
    Some places are just better suited to handle heavy usage than others. Usage can exceed many thresholds - thresholds of habitat and erosion, of wilderness feeling, of landowner goodwill.
    For years, the policy was not to randomly hand out 3000-footer lists because if some idiot who knew nothing about bushwhacking got lost or hurt it might result in closure of access to everybody. Obviously it only takes one person who disagrees and has a web site to change that. Eric Savage once told me that his 3k with trails list does not include private trail peaks without landowner permission.

    Supposedly the 4k club did not make the NH100 list official because it included too many private-land peaks, although if you include a number of recent easements etc. the number is now approaching 0 or many fewer than the NE100 list.

    A NH peak that was closed to hikers for 50 years was reopened to hikers on a limited basis a few years ago, but now people seem to have the attitude that they can just go anytime they want which may result in closure again.

    Soon to appear in public is a list of all peaks in New England with 300' cols with map links produced by a researcher in California. This guy probably will ever hike only a few if any so may not care about any on-the-ground consequences. Will property owners react as negatively to their land being on a list as being on a map?

  7. #127
    Senior Member --M.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr View Post
    For the record, I do support the rights of private landowners to control access to their land. But I'm not sure why Woody Guthrie and others shouldn't be allowed to disagree and work peacefully for a change in the law.
    Absolutely, well said.

    edit: And I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress. It's an awesome-looking map and could be a tremendous asset. I'd sure appreciate hearing updates here as things move along. --M.
    Last edited by --M.; 05-30-2009 at 12:55 PM.

  8. #128
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    Now that the traffic on this thread has quieted down a bit I'd like to make two comments.

    First, as President of WODC, I have no regrets that we published Chris' Opinion piece. It is clearly labeled as Opinion, not WODC Policy. Personally I disagree both with some of Chris' observations and his phrasing. But that is Chris' opinion and why we have an opinion column. If someone would like to write a rebuttal we'd be happy to consider it for our next newsletter.

    The discussion that Chris' article engendered does demonstrate the emotional cauldron boiling below the surface and the need for ALL the parties involved to reflect on their thoughts and actions. As Kevin Rooney observed, “there are no winners here”.

    Second, on a more philosophical note, the Legal System balances the right of landowners to use their land as they see fit versus the impact those uses have on the rights of neighbors and the community at large. During the 19th and 20th centuries this historical balance shifted dramatically to allow landowners quite exclusive use of their land with minimal responsibility for their impacts on other land and people. This shift was driven by the demands of industry. For a good account read, “The Land We Share: Private Property and the Common Good” by Eric T. Freyfogle.

    The purpose of NH “Current Use” Land Taxation is clearly stated in RSA 79-A:1: “It is hereby declared to be in the public interest to encourage the preservation of open space, thus providing a healthful and attractive outdoor environment for work and recreation of the state's citizens, maintaining the character of the state's landscape, and conserving the land, water, forest, agricultural and wildlife resources”. To achieve this goal the public grants landowners a reduced tax rate on land maintained as “open space”. RSA 79-A:4:II restricts public access to “open space” land to “skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, hunting, hiking or nature observation”. I believe that any landowner who places their land in Current Use and then prohibits the public from accessing that same land violates the social compact. I realize that current NH statues allow a landowner to both accept the tax break and prohibit access; but those statues are the result of the cultural shift in the legal code described above. They do not accurately reflect the social compact and should be changed. If a landowner wishes to maintain exclusive access to their land then they have no moral right to claim a tax reduction from the public who they are prohibiting from accessing their land.

  9. #129
    Senior Member Waumbek's Avatar
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    In my town, at least, "current use" is code for "no development/subdivision," which is of far more interest to the large majority of residents than trail access. We've got trails all over the place. The town foregoes some of the property tax due to it not primarily for more access to the land, but for less development of the land. Development costs towns money for services, school tax, and so forth. I'm not arguing the right or wrong of this, just pointing out that the perceived social benefit of "current use" varies depending upon where one fits into the system.

  10. #130
    Senior Member psmart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Waldron View Post
    To achieve this goal the public grants landowners a reduced tax rate on land maintained as “open space”.
    To be specific, land in "current use" is assessed at a value of $50 to $100 per acre. The range is established by the state, and the exact value is determined by local officials. Assuming a tax rate of $10 to $20 per thousand, the tax on current-use acreage will be in the range of $0.50 to $2.00 per acre, or $50 to $200 for a 100-acre parcel.

    To ensure that current-use taxation is not used for short-term purposes, a one-time fee of 15% of current market value must be paid to take a parcel of land out of current-use. This fee means that a tax savings is only realized on land that is kept in current-use for approximately 10 years.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Waldron View Post
    I realize that current NH statues allow a landowner to both accept the tax break and prohibit access.
    Although "recreation" is one of the stated goals of current-use, the landowner is not required to have their land open to the public. However, they are offered an incentive in the form of a 20% "recreational Adjustment" if they elect to leave their land open to public “skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, hunting, hiking or nature observation...”

    So a land-owner who takes the recreational adjustment will see a typical tax reduction of $10-$40 per year on a 100-acre parcel.

    If a land-owner who is taking the recreational adjustment subequently decides to post their land, "the 20% reduction shall not be allowed at the subsequent April 1st assesment period" and "the land shall not be eligible for the recreational reduction during the subsequent 3 year period, including the year of disallowance."

    To be clear, under current law the land-owner can take advantage of lower current-use rates regardless of whether they permit public access, but they can take the additional 20% recreational reduction only if they permit public access.

  11. #131
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    Waumbeck,

    I don't disagree with anything you wrote. Current Use typically is interpreted to be code for No Development. I wanted to point out that the Open Space statute includes providing the public with access to land for certain forms of recreation.

    The existence of trails is a separate issue and should always include the active cooperation of the landowner. Poorly laid out trails are a nightmare and well constructed trails require timely care and maintenance. The decision to build and maintain a trail is a serious commitment by all involved.

    I spent my Saturday helping to carry up gear and set up a campsite that our Trail Crew will use this summer. They will be installing rock steps and rock waterbars on a section of the Blueberry Ledge Trail.

    Thanks Peter for clearly explaining the difference between the "Current Use" tax rate and the "Recreational Discount".

  12. #132
    Senior Member Waumbek's Avatar
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    Thank you for your trail work, Jack, and for all of your efforts that benefit both the land and hikers. As has become abundantly clear in this thread, they are fraught with conflicts and politics. But it remains a noble cause.

    Peter's useful statistics make it evident that there is meager financial incentive or reward for landowners to take the recreational adjustment discount on current use by which open access is granted to hikers, among others. At times in this thread, I've sensed the misperception that landowners save huge amounts of tax money by doing so. Not true. Most do so, I assume, because they share the philosophy of "my land, your land," to rephrase Guthrie. At the same time, of course, that philosophy can dictate closing public access since there is little financial penalty for doing so if abuses--fire rings, herbicides, illegal clearing--begin. I don't think that's a bad system necessarily. Use the public access land respectfully--or it's history. A few landowners may over-react and arbitrarily close access too quickly, but I suspect that the majority has a long fuse since they've opened their land on a largely voluntary basis to begin with and want to keep it open provided recreationalists cooperate.

  13. #133
    Senior Member chomp's Avatar
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    The TB map, with the now-closed Larcom Trail still displayed, is still being hosted here:

    http://www.franklinsites.com/hikepho...itossipees.php

    Rocket - when do you think you will have time to remove these maps from your site? Do you have any intentions of removing this map from your site?

  14. #134
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    The map arguement sounds moot. One can find geo detail on any Google or US Govt satellite data, which perhaps may even contain a view of a landowner taking a crap in his woods. Will the landowner sue Google and the Govt next?? It's subject to public viewing - as are those celebs 'hiding' from paparatz.

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