TAMWORTH — The Chocorua Mountain Club has announced it is receiving support from the White Mountain Trail Collective that equals $110,000 for significant trail work to be completed on the Old Paugus and Paugus Beeline trails in Chocorua.
The work is in partnership with the White Mountain National Forest, Saco Ranger District, as well as the Sandwich Range Wilderness Project.
Reached Tuesday, Melanie Luce, executive director of the White Mountain Trail Collective, clarified that
“it’s not a grant. We partner with trail maintainers in and around the White Mountain National Forest, and help fund a good amount of trail work there.
“We are responsible for providing project funding as well as organizing in-kind contributions. We provide project managers that are responsible for the day-to-day and overall oversight and planning.”
According to Ken Smith, president of the CMC and lifelong summer resident of Chocorua, “It is the most significant amount to be awarded to the CMC in its more than 100-year history.
“Our Chocorua and Tamworth neighbors have been very generous to other local conservation efforts for many years, so we’re also very pleased to have secured this important funding from outside sources, and we plan to keep that model moving forward as we execute on our long-term plan,” said Smith.
“It kicks off the CMC’s five-year strategic trails stewardship plan to harden all of the trails on our network to prepare for the next 100 years.”
Founded in 1906, the CMC has been cutting and clearing trails on Mount Chocorua and Mount Paugus through the dedicated efforts of volunteers.
Each May, the club holds its annual trail clearing weekend, sending crews up each trail to cut away blow-downs, clear out water bars and clip back brush that has overgrown the trail.
This past Saturday, the club fielded more than 40 volunteers wielding hand saws, clippers and rakes, and cleared all trails on the CMC network.
In the past 10 years or so, Smith, who also lives in Cambridge, Mass., says the club has noticed a significant change in the work needed to be done. “Because of climate change, rain events are shorter and heavier throughout the year, causing more rapid and significant erosion of the foot path, leaving roots and rocks exposed causing a hazard to hikers, especially young children,” he said.
“Erosion that had been seen once per year and only after a heavy winter runoff is now being seen two to three times per year, requiring more crews, more time, and more work to just keep up with this essential basic maintenance,” Smith said.
The club has also noted a rise in foot traffic. During the COVID-19 pandemic the White Mountain National Forest Service has reported significant increase in traffic.
“Where the parking lot for the Piper Trail off Route 16 in Albany once filled up on a nice summer Saturday, cars from many states are now parked along the entry road and hundreds of yards down the side of Route 16 to access the trail,” he said.
“The increased interest and enjoyment of the outdoors is welcome, but each additional pair of boots hitting delicate soil causes additional erosion.
“We think the more hikers who enjoy our trails, the better,” said Smith. “We just need to be sure that the trails are safe, well-maintained, and foot traffic doesn’t endanger the ecosystem of this important natural resource.”
Luce said the WMTC gets its funding from a variety of sources and has helped to maintain trails in such places as the Crawford Path, Glen Ellis Falls and Cathedral Ledge.
They also work with the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and Wonalancet Out Door Club.
The funding sources, she said, “run the gamut. We are lucky to have amazing, generous donors. This year, to date, two anonymous donors who live right in the Mount Washington Valley have given gifts of $50,000 and $30,000.”
Other funding, she said, has come from the Great American Outdoors Act
According to Smith, more volunteers are always needed, and even small donations go a long way to helping maintain trails in New Hampshire.