ALBANY — A rainy day didn’t dampen the energy or turnout at Tin Mountain Conservation Center’s emotional dedication of its Dr. Michael Cline Memorial Forest last Saturday.
The half-hour ceremony drew about 50 well-wishers and formally dedicated the 93-acre forested parcel, 1 mile before Tin Mountain’s center on Bald Hill Road, to the former executive director and widely loved conservationist.
It completes a continuous 233-acre corridor of protected forest with Tin Mountain’s Rockwell Sanctuary.
The dedication was originally scheduled for Oct. 27 but that day’s early snowfall led to a postponement by a week.
A newly blazed path called the White Pine Trail leads hikers in a 1.7-mile loop in the Dr. Michael Cline forest.
“His vision was far-reaching and his accomplishments many, including being an excellent conservationist, fundraiser, forester, naturalist and teacher of both children and adults,” said Tin Mountain executive director Lori Jean Kinsey, his widow.
Plant and animal species thriving on the property include mountain laurel, black gum trees and pitch pine trees, along with moose, black bear, barred owls and scarlet tanagers.
Kinsey graciously thanked White Pine Trail clay marker maker Susan Goodwin, Mike Tamulis for painting the markers and Chris Tanguay of Maine Dry Stone and his son Odin for the granite memorial stone.
Many volunteers also helped clear the trail and hang trail signs, and a special thanks was given to Doug Burnell, former chair of Tin Mountain Conservation Center, for being Tin Mountain’s “very own trail angel” for the extensive stone work he did on the trail.
The new White Pine Trail connects to other trails in the area, including the Waldorf School.
Cline served as Tin Mountain
executive director from 1998 to January 2017, when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer after a heroic battle with the disease. A few of his many accomplishments were purchasing land on Bald Hill Road in Albany, providing oversight of the construction of the ecologically responsible Nature Learning Center and winning numerous grant funds, totaling over $2 million in support of Tin Mountain’s mission.
In addition to managing 1,200 acres of Bear Paw forest land in Center Conway, Dr. Cline was instrumental in starting a Tin Mountain intern/research program in 2010 that has since hosted 50 interns. Research projects include long-term breeding bird, ecological monitoring of timberlands, a brook trout restoration project, resident bird study and a data analysis internship.
In addition to money raised by Tin Mountain and the Upper Valley Land Trust to buy the parcel, funding also came from New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) which was instrumental in completing the purchase from Bayard Kennett.
With rain falling on the rescheduled dedication, few attendees joined a hike after the ceremony, but most did attend a gathering in the Tin Mountain building for Old Village Bakery cookies and apple cider from White Mountain Cider Co.
In keeping with Tin Mountain precedent, the forest will be permanently protected and managed as a working forest that also provides recreational and educational opportunities to the public.
Cline, said, Kinsey, “would love this 93-acre forest. It has rare trees, creates a large corridor of protected land for wildlife, has terrific birds, and a wetland on it, all characteristics that make for great explorations.”
Burnell said the memorial forest would probably have been reserved for condominiums considering its road frontage on Bald Hill Road, proximity to Route 16, and town sewer and water connections close by.
“It was a piece of land we thought we’d never see,” said Burnell, adding he was “shocked” when Kennett voiced interest in selling it to Tin Mountain and the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust.
The memorial forest is owned by Tin Mountain Conservation Center with a conservation easement on the land held by Upper Saco Valley Land Trust.
Tin Mountain Conservation Center is a non-profit environmental organization that has served the greater Mount Washington Area for over 30 years. Its mission is to promote an appreciation of the natural environment among children, adults and families through a diversity of hands-on programs.
Due to a recent surgery, Dr. Cline’s eldest daughter, Brittany Cline, was unable to read her speech at the ceremony, so her sister Logan Cline Maxwell read it on her behalf.
“In all likelihood, my father would have been drawn to the unique ecological features of the property, and if he was here, I’m certain he would have outlined those facets for all of us, with passion and gusto … and a particular emphasis on forest ecology and succession,” Maxwell said, reading her sister’s speech.
Brittany Cline’s speech found profound corollaries to philosopher John Muir, U.S. Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot, and scientist and author Aldo Leopold.
“At his core, my dad was a scientist and an ecologist — he loved applied research, and his greatest contribution would be if he could inspire the next generation of young people to develop tools to help combat the pressing environmental issues of our time,” Brittany Cline wrote.
Her father, she said, was a “fierce proponent of ‘old-growth’ forest — late successional, older-seral stage forest,” said Maxwell. While many look at forests as short-term places of value “my dad looked at the forest and conceptualized on far longer time scales.”
In a nod to Dr. Cline’s love of long-lived trees, Kinsey and others planted a young red spruce tree next to the memorial stone, adding yet another species to the forest.
“It is my sincere hope that many people will visit this forest, tread the White Pine Trail, feel Mike’s presence, and be inspired and committed land stewards, themselves,” said Maxwell.
In a touching and poetic twist, Brittany Cline said her son Ollie “was born mere hours before Mike died — and I will often look to the trees for my dad’s figurative voice.”