Celebrating Land Protection at Champlin Forest

Expanded forest reservation used by 75,000+ people in Rochester and surrounding communities

Anna Berry | February 27, 2023
A group gathers in front of a snowy forest for a photo commemorating the expansion of Champlin Forest.

Neighbors, partners, and Forest Society members gathered to celebrate the expansion of Champlin Forest on February 24. (Photo: Kate Wilcox)

Nearly 30 neighbors, local partners, and Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests staff and members gathered at Champlin Forest in Rochester on Friday to celebrate the expansion of the property to more than 300 acres of protected forestland and wetlands.

Leah Hart, in a winter hat and coat, speaks to attendees outdoors at Champlin Forest.
Forest Society Land Protection Specialist Leah Hart thanked partners and donors for making the project possible. (Photo: Kate Wilcox)
Despite frigid temperatures, the group toasted the achievement with hot chocolate and explored the newly protected land on foot.

“We’re all humbled to be here as people who support and love the land,” said Leah Hart, Forest Society Land Conservation Project Manager, who helped bring the project to completion. “It’s really not a given that land remains as open space.”

The 185-acre William H. Champlin, Jr. Forest was donated to the Forest Society in 2006 by Virginia Spaulding Champlin in honor of her late husband. At the time, the Champlins donated an additional 122 acres to another local nonprofit, Homemakers Health Services, now a part of Easterseals of New Hampshire. It is this property that the Forest Society recently purchased and reunited with the 185-acre Champlin Forest.

This land will be permanently conserved and open to the public thanks to combined contributions of $465,000 from numerous sources. More than 250 individual donors from surrounding communities made gifts to the fundraising campaign and the Adelard A. and Valeda Lea Roy Foundation awarded a grant of $7,500. The Rochester Conservation Commission contributed $200,000 from its Conservation Fund and funding from two state grant sources were essential to this project, a $115,000 grant from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and a $110,000 grant from New Hampshire Department Environmental Services Aquatic Resource Mitigation (ARM) Program.

Forest Society Senior Director of Education Dave Anderson led the group into the woods to explore the newly protected land. (Photo: Kate Wilcox)

Forest Society President Jack Savage noted that Champlin Forest is one of the organization’s only forest reservations within city limits in New Hampshire, and it’s used by more than 75,000 visitors each year.

“Making this land accessible and open and available is part of our mission,” Savage said.

Representatives of the Forest Society and partners on the project stand in front of the official Champlin Forest sign in Rochester.
Leaders of the partners that worked together to expand Champlin Forest, including the Forest Society, Easterseals, NH LCHIP, and the City of Rochester, commemorated the occasion. (Photo: Kate Wilcox)
Christopher Miller, the Senior Vice President of Housing for Easterseals said the project — along with the senior housing being developed on nearby acreage, called Champlin Place — was consistent with Virginia Champlin’s vision when she first donated the land.

“It’s good that we’re able to live out that vision,” Miller said. “We’re doing the seniors’ affordable housing project up there and it’s great we can give the rest of this land to the Forest Society.”

And Savage remarked that the two missions are not mutually exclusive.

“The idea is about conservation and also about affordable housing in the city of Rochester,” Savage said. “We can do both things… we can protect land and natural resources and we can make sure people have affordable places to live.”

Representatives of the City of Rochester, LCHIP, Rochester Recreation & Arena, and the Rochester Conservation Commission also attended the celebration.

Animal tracks in the snow at the newly protected property in Champlin Forest.
The Forest Society addition significantly expands protection in a highly developed landscape, results in a connected habitat for wildlife, and furthers mitigation goals to protect water quality of the Cocheco River watershed. (Photo: Kate Wilcox)
As the group set off on a winter walk through the woods led by Forest Society Senior Director of Education Dave Anderson — finding animal tracks and budding red maples along the way — Rochester residents were excited to enjoy the newly protected forest.

“It is beautiful out here,” said neighbor Sylvia Dore.