Heads up - Road access to Bayroot Lands in the north country


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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
A news article in todays Berlin Daily Sun http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?PBID=8c4af509-8814-415a-bfa7-07ab466afc1a (free subscription) reports that two notable north country leaders were arrested for trespassing on private roads accessing Bayroot Lands. One of those leaders is long term journalist John Harrigan who for many years has been the voice of the North Country statewide and notably against Northern Pass. In addition to the lead article there is commentary later in the paper related to management of the Bayroot lands. I expect we will be hearing more about this incident as there is a reference to an AMC group doing the same trip the day after.

Even if someone could care less about NP, this is a precedent that Bayroot is apparently now prosecuting the public who are using their internal road network. Generally the tradition in the north country of NH has been that the private road networks have been open to the public as long as it doesn't impact timber operations. In the past when land owners have attempted to bar public access there usually has been public outcry. Dillon attempted to do this several years ago on their Success NH lands after a vandalism incident and even they elected to reverse the policy. There are many large land owners in the area and frequently in order to access to one area there is a need to go over several landowners properties. Public access via motor vehicles is not a right, but generally has been assumed. In much of northern Maine, road access is behind gates and the public has to pay for access. The other reasons for keeping road access open is for fire protection access, the majority of forest fire wardens in the area are volunteers and at least a few have observed that if a landowner elects to gate their land that the wardens may be less likely to show up to fight a fire behind the gate.

Recent publicity on Bayroot's lease to NP and their overly aggressive land management practices appears to have changed their approach to public access. Note that the individuals arrested may have decided that an arrest for trespassing was good for their cause. They appear to have been lucky (or preplanned) that they had cell coverage to call for help as much of that region does not have reliable coverage.

Nevertheless the cause, for those used to unfettered access to private road networks north of RT2, things may be changing. A bit more caution up front looking for no trespassing signs is definitely advised and realize that some traditional access to trail less peaks may no longer be as easy. In the past I knew of several folks who carried a carbide abrasive hacksaw blade under the seat on the odd chance they got locked in behind a gate. Maybe its time to consider it again. I am not advocating cutting gate locks to gain access but on occasion land owners and non land owners will arbitrarily close and lock gates trapping vehicles in behind them.
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Can you give us an idea where these lands are, and what sites of hiking interest are on these lands or could be accessed through them?


Can you give us an idea where these lands are, and what sites of hiking interest are on these lands or could be accessed through them?


+1. For e.g., Magalloway Road? Roads in Kelsey Notch? Nash Stream? Success Pond and North Road? The road network east of Seven Islands? Phillips Brook? I'm just spewing off the top of my head but am very curious. Not sure where Bayroot properties are.
I unfortunately have not found a map of the Bayroot properties. One problem is that Wagner forest manages the Bayroot lands and other large landholdings so this new policy may extend outside the actual Bayroot properties. I do have an older Mead Forest land map that reflects the ownership prior to when Bayroot (Yale) bought it. They have sold blocks of land outright as well as conservations easements since publication. Bayroot has local offices that manage blocks so a policy in one area my not be in place elsewhere. Given that the controversy is centered around the NP future easement we can hope that this is just some short term grandstanding.

With that major caveat in place, the former Mead land (now Bayroot) land in NH started roughly in West Milan NH and runs north through Dummer, Millsfield, Dixville, Dixs Grant, and Atkinson and Gilman before crossing into Maine where they owned three townships on both sides of the upper two thirds of Azicohos Lake. They also own 3 townships north of Kennebago Lake in Maine. They run up against the Second College Grant owned by Dartmouth (always gated to other than Dartmouth College Alumni) and the Philips Brook area (owned by John Malone, gate status unknown) and the former Champion lands to the north and west (owned privately but under state of NH conversation and limited recreation easement).

For 4k folks, its not an issue, but for those working on more obscure lists its definitely a potential issue. They did own the three townships that are normally used to access Cupsuptic, Kennebago Divide, White Cap and Boundary Peak from the south and could easily a gate blocking access to 3 possibly 4 NE100s.

Nash Stream is owned by state of NH so no issues there beyond the day use only rule. Success Pond Road is currently owned by JR Dillon but its expected they will be greenmailing some conservation agency to buy it now that it is stripped of merchantable timber. Effectively a couple of culverts is all that is preventing access to this area although the Success Pond owners do have deeded rights for access. Given the length of the Success Pond road I don't see the camp owners taking it over so future access is a question mark. Bayroot owns the RT 26 end although they have conservation easements in place on much of this land. Kelsey Notch was on Bayroot property. Looks the east of Seven Islands is Dillon land.

If you need a crude rule of thumb, if in the watershed of the Connecticut, probably not an issue but if in the Androscoggin watershed you need to do some research as most of these holdings were originally owned by Brown Company in Berlin to service the Mills.
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I am curious about NH "Current Use" status of these lands, and if they are under current use are the owners receiving the additional 20% tax reduction allowed if public access is permitted. When I owned property in Wentworth, NH there was a nearby landowner who had his land posted, and under current use tax reduction. He/they were receiving the 20% additional tax discount above the lower current use assessment. When called on this he claimed ignorance. But then, are educational institutions taxed on property holdings?
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