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Thread: The Info on Mt. Cabot

  1. #1
    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    The Info on Mt. Cabot

    Hi all,
    I recently posted this in another forum, and it was suggested I post here as well since this is a topic that comes up often: what's up with the Mt Cabot trail?

    I hiked Mt Cabot as my #48 finish over Labor Day weekend. In hopes that I could bag this one using the entire Mt Cabot trail, I called up Paul Crane to ask his permission to use the trail. He is the landowner who closed the lower portion of the Mt Cabot trail. Since he was very candid with me on the phone, me being a total stranger, I'll assume that he would have no objection to me sharing this info with you.

    Crane owns a ton of land in NH and Maine. He has given hundreds of acres (both voluntarily and via imminent domain) for public access. For years, he had given a public right-of-way across his land to use the Mt Cabot trail. Crane is also a huge snowmobile enthusiast... somuchso that he owns and operates a snowmobile museum in Lancaster. This enthusiasm often leads Mr Crane into projects that involve constructing public snowmobile trails, even at his own personal expense.

    So here's where the clash between Crane and the AMC started, and why the trail is now closed. Mr. Crane wants to build a snowmobile trail through Willard Notch to York Pond. In order to do this, he needs permission from the organization that manages that particular area of the national forest... in this case, the AMC. He offered to give the AMC 4 miles of land so that they would fully own the Mt Cabot trail, as well as construct a parking lot at the trail head; in exchange, he wanted permission to build the snowmobile trail with his own funds, then donate it to the town. The AMC rejected his offer, and told him that the area in question was to be reserved for foot traffic and x-skiers. In response, he rejected the public right-of-way across his land, and closed the portion of the trail that goes over his land. There's been much debate on this board as to whether that's legal, but since the AMC hasn't chosen this as a battle they'd like to fight, the closing has been permanent for the last few years.

    The negotiation still continues. The AMC has offered Crane money for the land, but he is firm that the only way he'll yield on this issue is if he's allowed to build the Willard Notch snowmobile trail. Meanwhile, he thanked me for asking him for permission, but politely refused my access to the trail. He stated that if I used it, I'd post pictures and tell everyone how I went up, then everyone would be calling him. I couldn't argue with that - he's was correct in that regard. He mentioned that he monitors activity on that trail often, and doesn't hesitate to make unpleasant acquaintances with trespassers. One exception: every Easter, he allows the boy scouts to go up and mount a cross at the cabin.

    I found Mr Crane to be very reasonable, and actually pretty nice. I understand his position. He loves snowmobiles, and wants to make Willard Notch more multi-use so he can explore his love of snowmobiles there as well. It's not that he's closing the trail to be ornery, but rather, it's the best leverage he has to fight for something he believes in.

    I don't live in the area, nor do I hike in Willard Notch... so I don't really feel entitled to formulate an opinion on the matter. However, if access to the Mt Cabot trail is something you feel passionately about, you can always write to your chapter of the AMC to support Mr Crane's request for a snowmobile trail. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only compromise: Willard Notch will be multi-use and the Mt Cabot trail will be belong to the AMC... or the current standoff will continue.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Thank you for reporting Mr. Crane's viewpoint, which as near as I can tell is wishful thinking with little basis in law.
    Quote Originally Posted by iagreewithjamie View Post
    For years, he had given a public right-of-way across his land to use the Mt Cabot trail.
    According to the deeds, there was an existing r-o-w across his land when he bought it which he has not attempted to extinguish by legal means but only by intimidating users. He made a man owning a cabin farther up the road go to court to prove his legal access to the cabin.

    Note that the AMC has no control over a potential snowmobile trail on USFS lands, or a campground and subdivision proposed for his land which were denied by the town so he doesn't get along with town officials either.

    The AMC doesn't really care about the Mt Cabot Trail and doesn't want to irritate North Country residents, and the USFS is under a nationwide order not to assert r-o-w claims, so it will take action by others to resolve this issue. In the meantime, people wishing to avoid confrontation should avoid this trail.

  3. #3
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    Roy beat me to it but this still applies

    This is basically the story I have heard and its nice of you to have contacted him directly for confirmation. I am a bit confused on one point, you reference AMC not the WMNF and possibly he did in the conversation.

    My confusion is that the land in question he wants to access is the WMNF, AMC does not own land in that area. WMNF is the agency that would have to approve the installation of the trail over their land and my understanding is that the current classification for this area is dispersed non motorized recreational (hiking/cross country) and timber management so a snow machine trail is not allowed under the current permit. If he is under the impression that AMC can make policy for the WMNF that is an error but given the background of this I expect he is well aware of the difference as this has been an issue for at least one and possibly two re-permitting cycles. AMC is generally involved with the re-permitting effort for the WMNF and could come out publically for this project as anyone who attends the public input sessions also could. AMC has elected, like the WMNF to remove reference to this trail from the guides due to landowner controversy and the potential impact to other trailheads located on private property. Given the importance of maintaining a north south wildlife corridor through the kilkenny range, I don't see it likely that the WMNF is going to be interested in allowing a motorized recreational trail to bisect this area especially given the reported shaky legal standing of the landowner. One thing the federal government is good at is just waiting it out until the owner in question goes away.

    Where it gets sticky is that deeds for large timber holdings are not as succinct as homeowners deeds. Frequently the deeds have numerous prescriptive rights that bestow rights to other parties to access the lands for various purposes. Even more frequently, the deed is a "quit claim", where one individual transfers whatever rights they have to another party. In many cases quit claim deeds may not even state that others have prior rights. I have run into quit claim deeds that sold rights to land that the guarantee didn't even own. Some landowners new to this type of ownership are sometimes surprised when an adjacent landowner reopens what is currently a path on their land to access a timber cut on an adjacent lot. I believe someone from VFTT has actually accessed the deeds in question (possibly Roy) and there appears to be sufficient WMNF rights that the issue of being able to close the route could be challenged. The reason it hasn't is that the WMNF does not want to set a precedent that could adversely impact other trailheads on private property. Unlike private property, an individual can never gain prescriptive rights to federal land so even though the landowner has been asserting his perceived rights for years, he never gains legitimacy which can occur with private land . To further confuse the issue, the landowners at the former trailhead appear to have been actively encouraging hikers to use this route since the closure.

  4. #4
    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    Both valid points. Whether or not he needs the AMC's blessing is beyond my legal expertise. I do know that the AMC manages that section of the national forest, but as for who would grant the legal standing needed to modify the land beyond its documented use is outside of my wheelhouse.

    He was very explicit that it was the AMC who had fought him on this issue, so I made the assumption that it was their decision as to whether or not to permit the snowmobile trail.
    Nothin' on the top but a bucket and a mop
    And an illustrated book about birds.
    You see alot up there, but don't be scared:
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    Darn that's depressing, AMC sure doesn't have any responsibility for managing any piece of the national forest and therefore he isn't even fighting the right battle.

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    Senior Member Red Oak's Avatar
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    Peakbagger thank you for your wise comments.Iagree thanks for the legwork on getting the info.The whole of issue of legal wrangling is as old as n.h. herself.I manage a very small private wetlands area in southern nh in which the town has a legal right to get into to fix issues with pond flooding,etc.That info was so long ago put on the original deed that most town employees do not even know they can request passage onto the private property.I have often informed the town to this right of passage to help with flooding and ponding issues.Recently they used the road for some pond concrete work.The private contractor left a huge jumbled concrete mess on the property.With one pleasant phone call I got the issue fixed.Point here is that in complex landownership issues things will go better if everyone tries to help each other and not fight tooth and nail.In short I help the town with access and they will help with my goal of long term land conservation.
    It seems a very good question as to if a snowmobile path through willard notch will really damage the area in terms of animal migration or conservation wise? I personally may not mind a trail I could hike on in winter into such a amazing area.It may be prudent to not bother locals up north too much about this trailhead as to keep relations between hikers and them cordial.just my 2 cents.

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    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iagreewithjamie View Post
    He was very explicit that it was the AMC who had fought him on this issue, so I made the assumption that it was their decision as to whether or not to permit the snowmobile trail.
    His track record of accuracy and reasonableness is not well established.
    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. -- Dr. Seuss

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    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Metsky View Post
    His track record of accuracy and reasonableness is not well established.
    This could be true. There was some commentary in the conversation about how much flack hunters get for wanting to build hunting camps while the AMC is allowed to build palaces in the notches all tax-free. I think his general opinion is that the AMC uses its deep pockets and influence to get what it wants where it wants, at the expense of the locals being able to use their land as they see fit. And ya know, it's not just Crane. I've heard from quite a few North Country folk who despise the AMC... and I mean literally despise them. Not the hikers... just the organization. The AMC doesn't seem to be very popular in the North, and I think alot of it has to do with building tourist attractions in wilderness areas under the auspices of being an environmental group. I spoke with one local North Country resident a couple of years ago - almost every other sentence was how the Randolph Mountain club gets it right, while the AMC is just a bunch of Boston yuppies yadda yadda. Regardless, the AMC does make a very easy straw man.
    Nothin' on the top but a bucket and a mop
    And an illustrated book about birds.
    You see alot up there, but don't be scared:
    who needs actions when you got words?

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    Quote Originally Posted by iagreewithjamie View Post
    This could be true. There was some commentary in the conversation about how much flack hunters get for wanting to build hunting camps while the AMC is allowed to build palaces in the notches all tax-free. I think his general opinion is that the AMC uses its deep pockets and influence to get what it wants where it wants, at the expense of the locals being able to use their land as they see fit. And ya know, it's not just Crane. I've heard from quite a few North Country folk who despise the AMC... and I mean literally despise them. Not the hikers... just the organization. The AMC doesn't seem to be very popular in the North, and I think alot of it has to do with building tourist attractions in wilderness areas under the auspices of being an environmental group. I spoke with one local North Country resident a couple of years ago - almost every other sentence was how the Randolph Mountain club gets it right, while the AMC is just a bunch of Boston yuppies yadda yadda. Regardless, the AMC does make a very easy straw man.
    The Highland Center probably does steal guests and money from local hotels, the huts don't.

    The RMC is perceived to being local and the AMC perceived as not being local. Neither is 100% true.

    "AMC uses its deep pockets and influence to get what it wants where it wants, at the expense of the locals being able to use their land as they see fit." hahaha, I don't know where to begin. Sad that this is how he views it.

    Thanks for starting this thread, I have often wondered about the back story.

  10. #10
    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    Since the AMC has pretty much nothing to do with the situation, I'm not sure how any of that is relevant to Mt Cabot. This guy has a land dispute with the USFS who basically wants nothing to do with him.

    The AMC story in the north country is multi-layered and full of pros and cons. While this guy may think his dispute is with the AMC and is somehow tied to them he's barking up the wrong tree. Like I said, he's got a poor track record of being accurate or reasonable, and perhaps I should add, correct.

    If you'd like to start a thread about the impact of the AMC (pro and con) in the North Country please feel free to do so. There have been many threads on the subject that will give you some background into the long history of the club and the interactions with folks up north (and down south, and out west) but feel free to start a new thread with some new perspective.
    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. -- Dr. Seuss

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    Senior Member Fisher Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom_Murphy View Post
    Thanks for starting this thread, I have often wondered about the back story.
    Having grown up in Coos, attending school with multiple members of the Crane family (some Peter's), there is more to the 'back story'. While not going into particulars, because I am only one voice perhaps seen as relating/interpreting events, there were some incidents that occurred off the trail corridor on private property, that I would admit, would get me irate as well if it were mine.

    However, on the land we owned, and parts of which we even leased with the USFS/WMNF, I found that there is nothing that cannot be worked out in the interests of the public good, including keeping a trail corridor open for all.
    " by reason of much foule weather and Extreme Bad Woods to travel in.."- From the letter of my great uncle Samuel Willard (accompanied by my grandfather Henry) to Governor Dummer on August 16, 1725, explaining the reason for his return, being instructed to "range all the country", of the Wawobadenik (White Mountains) July 19-August 16, 1725. I am a 13th generation New Englander and proud of it.

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    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    I think the biggest reason (my opinion) as to why nobody is working on a resolution is there is no need to. There is a perfectly fine way to climb that hill, so let's just use it. I personally don't want to see anybody wasting any time, effort, or money on this.

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    When the local scouts blazed the Kilkenny ridge trail, the plan was to shut down most of the access to the ridge line to make it more "wild" for the folks who hiked the ridge trail. This was the reason Bunnel Notch trail and York Pond trail were not maintained for many years and got such a poor reputation. I think the intent was to leave Mt Cabot Trail but realistically it makes far more sense to have the trails access the ridge from the York Pond area. In my opinion the biggest reason the westerly approach was so popular was that its about an hour closer to Boston and avoids Berlin which was quite a shock to most folks when it was in operation. The RT 110 relocation bids were opened recently and by 2015, at least part of the drvie through Berlin will be a lot easier (but still an hours extra drive from Mass).

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    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    My reasoning for wanting to use the Cabot trail was that I had some friends who wanted to go who aren't quite in the 9 mile range. The 7 mile-ish way up Cabot sounded more appealing to them. That was my fault for not finishing on an easier mountain closer to Boston. Regardless, the torrential downpour kept them away anyhow.

    I actually found the Bunnell Notch trail to be a nice hike. It was very very muddy... but nice. And quiet.

    One thing I have wondered... is there anything to keep Mr Crane from profiteering off of us hikers? Or anyone for that matter? Is someone who owns the land at a trailhead in a national forest entitled to, say, build a parking lot and charge 3 bucks to park there?
    Nothin' on the top but a bucket and a mop
    And an illustrated book about birds.
    You see alot up there, but don't be scared:
    who needs actions when you got words?

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iagreewithjamie View Post
    One thing I have wondered... is there anything to keep Mr Crane from profiteering off of us hikers? Or anyone for that matter? Is someone who owns the land at a trailhead in a national forest entitled to, say, build a parking lot and charge 3 bucks to park there?
    ...or the owners of some businesses in Berlin to kick him a few bucks to keep it closed?
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