[The following editorial appeared in today’s Foster’s Daily Democrat and its online service, Fosters.com.]
Dover — August 31, 2009 — Some people receive a gift and they cherish it. Others might receive a similar present and abuse it. The latter has been the case with 12,000 acres of forest in the Ossipee Mountains.
The gift was in allowing hikers, bicyclers, walkers and people who fish to use the quiet site for their pleasure. The only caveat was that the land not be ravaged or abused — a sensible expectation, whether spoken, implied or quietly inferred.
Abuse of the land has resulted in its closure to recreational use, closure that includes trails to the summits of Mt. Shaw and Mt. Bayle. The owners of the woodlands, the Chocorua Forestlands, were forced to take action because of abusive behavior by people whose idea of respecting the land is, at best, a distant concept. The owners had determined their trust had been violated.
It was the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails that announced the closure last week, and in so doing, said posting of the land as closed was the result of irresponsible trail development, use and advertisement. The owners of the land had complained hikers were being disrespectful of their nearly 19 square miles of land. The Bureau of Trails is within the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation — a part of the Department of Resources and Economic Development.
New Hampshire’s forests are one of its great treasures. Whether it is state-owned land or property landowners choose to share with responsible people, forests and other lands and waters are meant to be respected so that they may be enjoyed by everyone.
Our hills and mountains, our woodlands, forests and fields, our lakes, ponds, rivers and streams and our seashore — they are in our care and entrusted to our care and use only as long as we show ourselves to be worthy.
The Chocorua Forest is privately owned land north of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust’s Castle in the Clouds property in Moultonborough, south and west of routes 25 and 16.
The lands and waters that make up New Hampshire are as beautiful as they are diverse. They are important to our lives in good times and in bad. The people are the trustees of those lands and waters. It is only the people who can ensure the lands and waters are used wisely and respectfully.
State officials are meeting with the owners of the recently closed land in the Ossipee Mountains in hopes that the area may be reopened. The owners of the land are its stewards. They were right to close the land in the face of its abuse. If the land is reopened, its use must be monitored, and its future use must rely on the way it is treated.
Remember, the lands and waters are something we inherited — something we hold in trust for those who come after us, knowing they are resources that once lost are renewed only at great cost and effort.
Protect the lands and waters. They are among our greatest treasures.