community forests. Such projects have the potential to attract
support from people outside the traditional conservation orbit.
An incident from several years ago sticks in Lyman’s mind. It
was at a workshop, she remembers. A young man sitting off to the
side didn’t say a whole lot until the wrap-up and comment period.
Then he told the group, “I am not a conservationist and I would
not support ‘conservation projects,’ but I have a young son now,
and this community forest idea is something I can do for him
– something that will leave a piece of this town for him to enjoy.”
For Lyman, that about sums it up: community forests are
about the future, and the idea can work on some level for many
different types of people.
Meanwhile, back in Raymond, townspeople are still enthusiastic about the creation of the town’s new community forest, said
Sheila Bourque. She noted that, before the campaign began, the
lower areas of the parcel had already been approved for three
subdivisions totaling 70 houses. “There’s still a feeling of unbelief
that we could pull it off, but there’s also a feeling of, ‘now I don’t
have to worry about what’s going to happen up there,’” she said.
Volunteers were getting ready to begin work on a trail system
on the lower elevations of the property, while the trail-building
pros from the Appalachian Mountain Club were preparing to
construct a trail over the rugged summit of Pismire Mountain.
The permitting was being finalized for a parking lot. And
Bourque was pulling together a group to be called Friends of the
Community Forest to help with the maintenance of trails and
anything else that needs to be done.
“I think honestly it’s going to be a gem in Raymond that
will ultimately become a destination place for hiking and will
draw people to our town,” Bourque said. Ruminating on the
fact that it took four years to make the community forest a
reality, Bourque offered advice for others that a long-distance
hiker might recognize. “It’s one day at a time. One foot in
front of the other. There are going to be down days and you’re
saying it’s never going to happen. What I’ve learned is that if you
keep reaching out to people, well, they’re willing to roll up their
sleeves to help. You just have to keep plugging.”
Joe Rankin is a freelance writer who lives in central Maine. He writes on forestry,
nature, and sustainability.
A guided tour of Cooley-Jericho Community Forest in New Hampshire, created by the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust and the towns of Easton, Franconia, Landaff, and Sugar Hill.