Skiing Enthusiast Conserves Trails in Sandwich

January 1, 2015

George Bates along the trail. Forest Society photo.

Having competed 14 times in the annual Birkebeiner 50 km cross-country ski event in Norway, octogenarian George Bates places a high value on great ski trails. Old woods roads around Young Mountain in Sandwich had provided a favorite glide for Bates and his wife Nancy for years, so when they heard that a 58-acre property those trails crossed was threatened by development, Bates decided to buy the parcel.

            “It’s a neat trip we can take from our house on trails, and it’s a beautiful piece of property. But the primary reason to buy it was to make it possible to continue to ski on the property,” said Bates, who lives in Weston, Mass., but has a second home in Sandwich.

            But the story doesn’t end there. The Bateses also donated a conservation easement on the land to the Forest Society, ensuring that the land will never again be vulnerable to development. What’s more, the easement keeps the land open to the public for pedestrian uses, so others may continue to enjoy the trails as well.

            “Absolutely I want to keep them open to the public,” Bates said. “I like for people who are interested in doing these things to have the opportunity to enjoy the woods and the countryside, skiing and hiking.”

            This is the fourth property the Bateses have purchased and protected with conservation easements in the Sandwich area. The common theme? They’re all good places to ski, Bates said.

            Bates’s passion for great recreation trails is felt at home in Weston, Mass., as well, where he has for decades been a mainstay of the Weston Forests and Trails Association.

            The 58-acre property Bates has most recently conserved includes frontage on the Cold River, which supports native brook trout. The entire property is classified as Tier-1, or best in state, for wildlife habitat in the N.H. Fish and Game Dept.’s Wildlife Action Plan. It’s also adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest, where the Bateses’ treasured ski trail continues after leaving their property.