Recreation Retailers Donate Time, Talent to the Trails

September 17, 2011

Forest Journal

Summer hadn’t yet appeared in the local obituaries; neither had the mosquitoes.

Tuesday featured heat, humidity and the hungriest mosquitoes yet this year. With statewide rivers running high and spring-like pools of standing water in the woods remaining after recent rains including Irene, the mosquitoes were in feeding frenzy mode. This weekend’s cooler temperatures with scattered frost in the North Country will mercifully kill them all. Welcome autumn; adieu mosquitoes!

Forest Society staff and land steward volunteers met enthusiastic, hard-working volunteers from Eastern Mountain Sports and NEMO Tents at our 189-acre McCabe Forest Reservation. The property will soon have a new parking lot, property sign and kiosk for the new trail to access existing paths along forested river meanders and oxbow ponds of the scenic ContoocookRiver.

The first goal of the recent workday was to carry heavy 12-foot and 16-foot long pressure-treated timbers for bridge stringers and also lighter pressure treated wooden decking. The second goal was to construct four rustic foot bridges to span small seasonal stream crossings along new sections of trail. The bridges must ultimately be secured with cable to adjacent live trees before floods raise the ContoocookRiver onto its floodplain to float these bridges downstream to Henniker or Boscawen! Trail organizations are becoming proactive in response to flooding events that are taking a toll on backcountry trails similar to the effects on State highway culverts and bridges.

Volunteers from the outdoor recreation industry are relatively young and physically active. Many employees volunteer time and talent to working on hiking trails. The spirit of volunteerism is both altruistic and intentional – for the outdoor industry, it also makes good business sense.

According to Will Manzer, president and CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), the outdoor industry is one of a few retail businesses that have continued to grow - even during the economic recession. Growth in the outdoor industry creates jobs and those jobs depend upon there being local places for people to hike, camp, climb, bike, paddle kayaks or canoes, ski, snowshoe and snowboard. Growth in retail sales of outdoor gear creates good jobs linked to protected land. National Parks and State parks, State forests, wildlife management areas and private, multi-use conservation areas open to the public – including 50,000 acres owned by the Forest Society – contribute to the economy.

In 2008, EMS made a five-year financial commitment to the Conservation Alliance, a group of outdoor industry companies that disburses annual membership dues to grassroots environmental organizations. Since 1989, The Conservation Alliance has contributed more than $9.5 million to conservation projects throughout North America. In 2010, EMS committed to an additional annual contribution to The Conservation Alliance “Legacy Fund,” a nationwide $3.5 million endowment fund created as a permanent source of funding for land conservation.

As advocates for the East, EMS was proud that grant funds were earmarked this year for the protection of additional land on MountMonadnock. Nominated by the backpacking stove manufacturer, JetBoil of Manchester, The Forest Society will use these funds to help to conserve an additional 390 acres in Jaffrey and Marlborough to add to nearly 6,000 acres of existing protected land surrounding Monadnock, including the 4,000 acre Forest Society Monadnock Reservation. Protecting these lands will guarantee that important sections of active hiking trails will continue to be maintained and open to the public under Forest Society stewardship.

The volunteers at McCabe from EMS and NEMO tents worked last week with Forest Society staff and trained land stewards in a crew of 18 which not only carried the lumber and completed the four bridges but also cleared the tread-way, painted yellow blazes and removed several large fallen trees along the new trail – all done before lunch. Fleeing the mosquitoes, our group posed for a photo before dispersing for the afternoon. Not bad for a half day, group effort. Donating time and talent helps to keep the outdoor recreation industry viable in the Northeast.