CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- A group of volunteers dedicated to assisting New Hampshire in the planning, organization and maintenance of Pisgah State Park has gotten legal counsel involved in the disagreement it's having with the state over timber harvesting on the land.
Friends of Pisgah, Inc. hired attorney Amy Manzelli to deal with the N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development and she recently sent a letter to the National Park Service regarding worries her clients have that the state ignored federal obligations -- such as not harvesting timber -- pertaining to Pisgah.
According to a legal document sent from Manzelli to the NPS, New Hampshire acquired Pisgah (roughly 13,500 acres) through a grant from the federal government under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. Members of Friends of Pisgah have said the money came with certain conditions they believe have been violated.
New Hampshire is in the process of harvesting timber at Pisgah, which some say is prohibited by the terms of the fund.
But Kenneth Desmarais, an administrator in the department's Division of Forests and Lands' Forest Management Bureau, said the potential to harvest timber in Pisgah was included in the original proposal to the federal government.
When asked why he thinks Friends of Pisgah has a problem with the harvesting, Desmarais said he won't pretend he can read their minds and mentioned the work being done is consistent with
Tom Duston, chairman of the Chesterfield Conservation Commission and a member of the Friends, said harvesting also took place in 2008 or 2009.
Desmarais said the department uses forest management for recreation and wildlife habitat maintenance. He said some people hunt at Pisgah and others use it for bird watching. He said timber harvesting creates a habitat that increases the number of game animals to be hunted and the number of bird species that can be viewed.
Friends of Pisgah President Kathy Thatcher said her organization is also unhappy the state switched Pisgah from a state park to a state forest.
Desmarais said all lands managed by the department are, and always have been, state reservations -- some are designated as state parks while others are state forests.
"But we manage our lands by our zoning systems and not by the name that is on it," he said. "There is no reservation land at Pisgah, so it is managed as forest land."
Thatcher said the zoning systems Desmarais speaks of were created in the 1990s and she is upset there were no public hearings on the matter.
She and Duston said lands protected with money from the LWCFA are meant to provide public outdoor recreation. Duston added that the state is supposed to allow camping on the site, which he said it does not.
He mentioned a trail that leads from Pisgah to Brattleboro, Vt., and another one in the works that will connect Pisgah to Keene.
"Those trails can't be done in one day. You need a camp site," he said. "People in the hiking and snowshoeing communities see Pisgah as a hub of the regional hiking trail network."
Duston said New Hampshire is the only state that requires state parks to be self-funding. He said the state recently transferred the only full-time ranger at Pisgah to other duties, leaving no supervision.
Thatcher said her organization remains dedicated to its cause.
"But most importantly, we are all committed to the idea of what Pisgah State Park represents as a place for public outdoor recreation and how it has enhanced the quality of our lives and the responsibility of preserving such a special place for generations to come," she said.
She said Pisgah was officially opened in 1972, though work on it started in the ‘60s.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.