Nash Stream - Kelsey Notch ATV trail hearing

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Super Moderator
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VFTT Supporter
Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
A long running disagreement with how the Nash Stream Area is managed is coming back this week

The state in the past has tended to act independently without agreement of the legal "partners" in the Nash Stream management. When the property originally was protected, the state was unable to raise enough funds so private conservation groups stepped in to the fund part of the purchase of the land with the important distinction that they would be legally involved in the long term management of the tract. Note that there was also a public fundraising aspect which was focused on preserving it as intact woodlands managed to a permanent plan. The state has attempted in the past to minimize the role of the conservation groups into advisory groups that could weigh in on changes but that ultimately the state could do as they pleased. This had been particularly apparent with respect to ATV uses. The state has opened the road network to ATVs but the ATV economic interests have pushed for more and more access via former roads and new trails that were intended to be discontinued. Three years ago after great pressure from various groups and state departments a 3 year trial was allowed for an ATV trail through Kelsey Notch on the north end of the forest. As you can see by the SPNHF blog post they are not in agreement with continuation of this trail as not consistent with the management plan for the forest.

In the past any hearing is usually overrun by ATV supporters, the ATV businesses and the state bureau of trails both regard ATV related tourism and economic impact highly and have developed a very effective advocacy group. In these days of Covid I dont know how effective that approach will be.

Ultimately I do not know what happens if push comes to shove with respect to changes in the management plan that the third parties disagree with. The state in the past has conveniently ignored or selectively enforced easements in the Ossipees, Kearsage and Sunapee so this is not a new occurrence. Generally SPNHF tends to try to not litigate. The Nature Conservancy of late tends to provide limited resources to managing their lands they have compared to acquiring new and I expect the AMC has pulled back quite a lot from controversy in the north country. The plan was altered significantly at one point by incorporating a previously nonexistent "camp culture" as a way of allowed continuation of camp leases in the forest compared to the original intent which was to remove them. I guess the third parties didn't push back enough then so maybe the state hopes they will not do so this time.

Anyone who has actually hiked in this area is no doubt that ATVs are a major presence on both the marked trails and other locations.
I just got back from a four day trip helping The Cohos Trail build bog bridges in Gadwah Notch and then helping Kim Nilsen maintain his trail from Table Rock to Dixville Peak. There was a lot of discussion amongst the group about Kelsey Notch and getting the short run of the CT off of the ATV trail. It can be a busy, ugly and a loud area after hiking for miles in the quiet. It has been a challenge for the CT to avoid the machines as they creep their way into otherwise very remote and peaceful areas (which is the kind of place that the CT has tried to exist in from the beginning).
No doubt I will get a reply that I am anti ATV. I am not particularly as long as it is not in my backyard or in areas specifically managed for no motorized vehicles as Nash Stream was intended to be. Jericho Lake State Park was purchased for ATV use and anyone entering that area has the expectation that they will encounter and hear ATVs. The WMNF is almost totally managed for non winter non motorized use with some snowmachine travel allowed on specific corridors generally intended to allow transit between other non WMNF parcels. I rarely see an effort to change long standing FS policies but the State of NH has a sad long list of violating or selectively enforcing long term easements to support short term political objectives.
The difference between ATV's and Snowmobile trails is that the snowmobile trail melts away every year. If a trail is discontinued, it quickly grows over and up. ATV's scar the heck out of the ground. It is much more damaging. It takes years for discontinued trails to grow over.