(It can be done and while our proposed Lees Pond Preserve is much smaller and far less well known, if there is a will of the citizens and conservation funding sources to do this, it will happen)
ALTON — Nearly 1,000 acres on and around Mount Major will be protected from development now that a fundraising campaign by conservation groups has reached its $1.8 million goal.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition announced Wednesday the groups have raised the money needed to purchase and protect four key properties around the mountain on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipesaukee.
The groups’ joint campaign, “Everybody Hikes Mount Major,” has resulted in the purchase of three properties on Mount Major, East Quarry and Piper mountains in Alton and Gilford. The acquisition of a fourth tract, near the Mount Major trailhead, is in the final stages.
The summit and parking lot at the foot of Mount Major are state-owned, but the land in between is private.
The campaign received more than 1,900 gifts ranging from $2 to $340,000. Gifts came from 31 states, from as far away as Hawaii, Oregon and Arizona.
The land preserved, and the awareness created by the fund drive, show that people want to keep the mountain the way it is, said Brenda Charpentier, communications manager for the forest society.
“Before this campaign, no one really knew that the trails to the Mount Major summit crossed mostly private land, and it was just by the goodwill of the landowners that people could use them,” Charpentier said.
“By beginning to conserve land on the mountain, we are working to make access guaranteed. The successful fundraising campaign ensures that the properties will remain open to the public for hiking, hunting, skiing and other recreational activities,” she said.
The groups view the fundraising effort as a first step in a long-term commitment to conserving and ensuring the wise stewardship of more land in the region.
“People have been telling us throughout this campaign how much they love hiking in the Belknaps, especially to the top of Mount Major, and seeing the spectacular view of Lake Winnipesaukee,” said Jane Difley, the forest society’s president/forester.
“We are grateful to all of the donors and volunteers who made it possible for us and our partners to help to preserve access for hikers as well as to conserve the forests, wetlands and streams on these properties — for people and for wildlife.”
The success of the fundraising campaign ensures that the properties will remain open to the public for hiking, hunting, skiing and other recreational activities, Charpentier said.
The conservation trust owns and will manage the parcel on Piper Mountain and in the Moulton Valley of Gilford, while the forest society will own and manage the parcels on Mount Major and the adjacent East Quarry Mountain, which hosts trails that connect to those on Mount Major.