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Where NH goes to play
A look at our state parks

06/02/11



Mountains, oceans, forest wildlife — the natural beauties that draw visitors from around the world to New Hampshire are often available for just a few dollars (or sometimes no dollars) at some of the state’s 75 state parks. Whether you’re looking to do some serious hiking or want to spend a long weekend camping or just take a walk in the woods, our state’s parks offer a chance to enjoy nature and in some cases learn more about the history or ecology of New Hampshire.

We take a look at some of the state parks in southern New Hampshire and check in on the overall state of the parks system in this tough budget year. We also look at a program the parks division has created to get families into the great outdoors and, for those who are looking to add a little something special to their next trip, we look at some of the places where you can find waterfalls to get that picture-perfect moment.

 

Get your climbing shoes on
State Parks boast excitement and adventure all summer long

By Tori Loubier
tloubier@hippopress.com

Summer in New England is all about taking advantage of the outdoors while the nice weather lasts. Whether you’re looking for rock climbing, hiking, swimming, kayaking or camping, New Hampshire state parks offer options of large forests, developed parks and historical sites that will leave even the most adventurous resident satisfied. The parks listed below are just a few of the 75 in the state park system and encompass most of southern central New Hampshire. Most parks offer season passes for the summer.

• Ahern State Park, Right Way Path, Laconia, 485-2034

Admission: Free.

Stats: With 128 acres and 3,500 feet of shoreline on Lake Winnisquam, this park is open year-round for recreation. Pets are not permitted in the park.

Amenities/activities: Fishing, biking, hiking and parking available.

• Annett Wayside Park, 271 Cathedral Road, Rindge, 485-2034

Admission: Free.

Stats: Near the Cathedral of the Pines National Shrine, Annett Wayside is part of the 1,494-acre Annett State Forest, open year-round and unstaffed. Leashed pets are permitted.

Amenities/activities: Hiking, picnicking, pit toilet.

• Bear Brook State Park, 157 Deerfield Road, Allenstown, 485-9874

Admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-11, free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: Bear Brook State Park is New Hampshire’s largest developed state park, with more than 10,000 acres, 40 miles of trails, 101 camp sites, two archery ranges and boat rentals available on weekends. The New Hampshire Antique Snowmobile Museum, the Old Allenstown Meeting House and the Richard Diehl Civilian Conservation Corps Museum are at the site as well. Open weekends only until June 12. Opens full-time for the season on June 17 and closes Sept. 5, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Gates close at 8 p.m. daily.

Amenities/activities: Hiking, biking, mountain biking, equestrian, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, playground, archery, picnicking, restrooms, group day use area, parking, camping and trailer sanitary station.

• Clough State Park, 455 Clough Park Road, Weare, 529-7112

Admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 to 11, free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: Located on the shore of 150-acre Everett Lake, the park has a 900-foot sandy beach, playing fields and large picnic areas. Open full-time for the season on June 17 and closes Sept. 5, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are not permitted in the park.

Amenities/activities: Swimming, biking, mountain biking, fishing, boat ramp, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, picnicking, group day use area, parking available.

• Daniel Webster Birthplace Historic Site, 131 North Road, Franklin, 271-3556

Admission: $4 for adults, free for children 17 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: The 147-acre site provides insight into the childhood years of Daniel Webster and includes a two-room frame house with 1700s furnishings. This park is always open for recreation. During the off-season the park is not staffed. Pets are not permitted in the park.

Amenities/activities: Picnicking, pit toilet, fee station and parking available.

• Echo Lake State Park, 60 Echo Lake Road, Conway, 356-2672

Admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-11, free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older. 

Stats: A trail around the lake provides views of the 700-foot Cathedral Ledge. An auto road and hiking trails lead to the top of the ledge, with views of the Saco River Valley and the White Mountains. Open weekends only until June 12. The park opens full-time for the season on June 17 and closes Sept. 5, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, restrooms, picnicking, rock climbing, parking available.

• Ellacoya State Park, 280 Scenic Drive, Gilford, 293-7821

Admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-11, free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older. 

Stats: On the southwest shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, Ellacoya has a 600-foot-long sandy beach with views across the lake to the Sandwich and Ossipee mountains. The campground includes 37 sites available by reservation only and offers three-way hook-ups. Tents are not allowed at the RV park. Pets are not allowed in the RV campground or in other areas of the park. The boat launch at Ellacoya State Park is temporarily closed for repair. Ellacoya is open weekends only until June 12. The park opens full-time for the season on June 17 and closes Sept. 5. Operating hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Swimming, fishing, RV camping, boat ramp, canoeing, kayaking, playground, picnicking, group day use area, restrooms, laundry and parking available.

• Endicott Rock, Route 3, Laconia, 485-2034

Admission: Free.

Stats: The historic rock has had the names of John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts Bay, the initials of Edward Johnson and Simon Willard, Commissioners of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and John Sherman and Jonathan Ince, Suveyors, inscribed on it since 1652. The park is unstaffed and open year-round for recreation. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Picnicking.

• Fort Stark State Historic Site, 211 Wildrose Lane, New Castle, 271-3556

Admission: Free.

Stats: Located on a peninsula historically called Jerry’s Point on New Castle Island, Fort Stark was named in honor of John Stark, commander of New Hampshire forces at the Battle of Bennington in 1777. It’s a former military installation; visitors are advised to be aware of dangers of unprotected stairs, high walls, rough ground and slippery rocks. Adult supervision of children is required. The Interpreter Center will be open for visitors every Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., until Labor Day. It is also open on Wednesdays, 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Amenities/activities: Fishing, wildlife viewing, picnicking, kayaking.

• Franklin Pierce Homestead, 301 2nd NH Turnpike, Hillsborough, 478-3165

Admission: $4 for adults, free for children under 17 and New Hampshire residents ages 65 and older.

Stats: This site is the boyhood home of America’s 14th president. Private and large group tours can be arranged. The site is open weekends only until June 27 and from Sept. 11 to Oct. 11. Open daily June 28-Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last tour is at 3:30 p.m. Always open for recreation.

Amenities/activities: Picnicking, fee station and parking available.

• Greenfield State Park & Campground, 52 Campground Road, Greenfield, 547-3497

Admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-11, free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older. 

Stats: This 400-acre park features ponds, bogs and a forest that extends to the shore of Otter Lake. There are 257 sites for camping. Open weekends only until June 12, then full-time from June 17 to Aug. 21. The park will be open weekends only beginning Aug. 27 and closes for the season on Sept. 5, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Amenities/activities: Swimming, fishing, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, RV station, showers and parking available.

• Hampton Beach State Park, Route 1A, Hampton, 926-2862 (lifeguards) or 926-5000 (patrol)

Admission: $15 per passenger vehicle. Free for New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: Provides year-round recreation with facilities including the Seashell complex with a band shell amphitheater, public information services, comfort station and first aid. Open full-time now through Sept. 5, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Swimming, fishing, picnicking, RV camping with full hook-ups in the campground, restrooms, group use day area and parking available.

• Hannah Dustin Memorial I-93 Exit 17 on to Rt. 4, Boscawen, 271-3556

Admission: Free

Stats: Built in 1874, the memorial is located on an island and features a statue that commemorates the escape of Hannah Duston, who was captured in 1697 in Haverhill, Mass., during the French and Indian War. The park is unstaffed but open year-round.

Amenities/activities: Picnicking and leashed pets.

• Kingston State Park, 124 Main St., Kingston, 642-5471

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: 14 miles from the seacoast and 44 acres in size, Kingston accepts reservations for business parties, wedding receptions, kids groups, family functions and other general gatherings. Open weekends only until June 12. Opens full-time for the season on June 18 and closes Sept. 5, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, restrooms and parking available.

• Miller State Park, Route 101E, Peterborough, 924-3672

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: On the 2,290-foot summit and flank of Pack Monadnock in Peterborough, this is the oldest state park in New Hampshire. A 1.3-mile paved road leading to the summit is open for visitors to drive. Open weekends only now through Sept. 2. Open full-time Sept. 3 through Oct. 31, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 a.m.-sunset. Pets are permitted.

Amenities/activities: Hiking, picnicking, pit toilet, parking available.

• Monadnock State Park, 116 Poole Road, Jaffrey, 532-8862

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: The park is a designated National Natural Landmark and offers year-round recreational opportunities. The Gilson Pond Campground is located at 585 Dublin Road, Jaffrey, and can be reached at 532-2416.

Amenities/activities: Camping, hiking, picnicking, restrooms, showers, visitor center, pit toilet, parking available.

• Northwood Meadows State Park, Route 4, Northwood, 436-1552

Admission: Free

Stats: 674.5 acres in size, including a wetlands area and a pond created by a dammed brook. This park is unstaffed and open year-round for recreation. Pets are permitted.

Amenities/activities: Fishing, hiking, picnicking, parking available.

• Odiorne Point State Park, Route 1A, Rye, 436-7406

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: There is evidence of past military occupation and an extensive network of trails. The Seacoast Science Center is located in the park and can be reached at 436-8043. Open full-time now until Sept. 5, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Biking, boat ramp, fishing, restrooms, hiking, picnicking, playground.

• Pawtuckaway State Park & Campground, 128 Mountain Road, Nottingham, 895-3031

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and under and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: The park includes a large family beach on Pawtuckaway Lake, as well as a field where large boulders called glacial erratics were deposited when glacial ice melted near the end of the Ice Age. With 195 wooded sites, the park is now open full-time and closes on Oct. 30, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Picnic shelter, restrooms, group use day area, parking available, camping, cabin rental and showers.

• Pillsbury State Park, off Route 31, Washington, 863-2860

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older. 

Stats: With woods, ponds and wetlands, Pillsbury boasts wildlife including moose and loons. Crossed by a network of hiking and mountain bike trails, the park is an important link in the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a 51-mile hiking trail that connects Mount Monadnock with Mount Sunapee to the north. Open full-time from now through Oct. 23, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are permitted.

Amenities/activities: Biking, mountain biking, boat ramp, canoeing, kayaking, camping, fishing, hiking, playground, picnicking, pit toilets and parking available.

• Rhododendron State Park, Route 119W, Fitzwilliam, 532-8862 (at Monadnock State Park)

Admission: Free.

Stats: Named after the 16-acre grove of Rhododendron Maximum. A trail encircles the grove allowing visitors to observe the flowers from early spring to the first frost. The 2,723-acre park is unstaffed and open year-round for recreation. Pets are permitted.

Amenities/activities: Hiking, picnicking.

• Robert Frost Farm Historic Site, Route 28, Derry, 432-3091

Admission: $7 for adults, $3 for children 6 to 17, free for children under 6 years old.

Stats: Home to poet Robert Frost and his family from 1900 to 1911. The two-story white clapboard farmhouse is typical of New England in the 1880s. Tours, displays, a trail and poetry readings are all available at the park. Seasonal programs are offered to the public at no charge through October. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Picnicking, parking available.

• Rollins State Park-Mt. Kearsarge, Route 103, Warner, 456-3808

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: On the slope of Mount Kearsarge, this park has a 3.5-mile-long auto road through woodlands to the parking and picnic areas. A trail to the summit of Mt. Kearsarge is a half mile away. The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway 75-mile loop trail links here. Open weekends only now through June 12. Open full-time June 17 through Oct. 23, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Pets are permitted.

Amenities/activities: Hiking, picnicking, parking available.

• Rye Harbor State Park, off Route 1A, Rye, 436-1552

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: Boasts views of the Atlantic, the Isles of Shoals and Rye Harbor. Now open for the season until Sept. 5, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Fishing, restrooms, picnicking and parking available.

• Silver Lake State Park, Route 122, Hollis, 465-2342

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older. 

Stats: With 80 acres of land and 1,000 feet of beach, this park is open weekends only through June 12. Open full-time June 17 through Sept. 5, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are not permitted.
Amenities/activities: Canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, non-motorized boats, hiking, picnicking, parking available.

• Mt. Sunapee State Park, 1460 Route 103, Newbury, 763-5561

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: A 4,085-acre park situated about a mile from the beach with a campground and lean-to for family camping. The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway 75-mile loop trail links here. Open full-time now through Sept. 5, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are permitted at the campground and at the park but not at the beach.

Amenities/activities: Boat ramp, camping, fishing, restrooms, pit toilet, group day use area, hiking, picnicking, playground, showers, swimming, parking available.

• Taylor Mill State Historic Site Island Pond Road, Derry, 431-6774

Admission: Free.

Stats: Situated on the 71-acre Ballard State Forest in Derry, this site is dedicated to Robert Taylor, who bought the property in 1799 and began operating the “up and down” sawmill.

Amenities/activities: Picnicking.

• Wadleigh State Park, Route 114, Sutton, 927-4724

Admission: Free.

Stats: Located on Kezar Lake, this park has playing fields and picnic sites near the beach. This park is unstaffed and open year-round for recreation. Pets are not permitted. The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway 75-mile loop trail links here.

Amenities/activities: Biking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, playground, picnicking, restrooms, group day use area, parking available.

• Wellington State Park, 650 West Shore Road, Alexandria, 744-2197

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older.

Stats: Offers the largest freshwater swimming beach in the New Hampshire state park system. Hiking trails provides access to Goose Pond, the Sugarloafs, Bear Mountain, Welton Falls and Mt. Cardigan. Organized youth group camping is offered on both Belle and Cliff Islands. Reservations are required and may be made through the summer season. Open full-time now through Sept. 5, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to sunset, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Pets are permitted in the boat access area only.

Amenities/activities: Boat ramp, fishing, restrooms, picnicking, group day use area, hiking, swimming, parking available, group camping.

• Wentworth State Park, NH Route 109, Wolfeboro, 569-3699

Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; free for children ages 5 and younger and New Hampshire residents age 65 and older. 

Stats: This park spans 50 acres and is located on Wentworth Lake. Open weekends only until June 12. Open full-time from June 17 through Sept. 5, Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pets are not permitted.

Amenities/activities: Fishing, restrooms, picnicking, swimming, parking available.

• Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site, 375 Little Harbor Road, Portsmouth, 436-6607

Admission: Free.

Stats: The former 40-room home of New Hampshire’s first royal governor, Benning Wentworth, who served in office from 1741 to 1767. On site is the Coolidge Center for the Arts. This park is always open for recreation and is unstaffed during off-season. The visitor center is open from late June through October; call the Wentworth-Coolidge Commission at 436-9889. Pets are not permitted in the park.

Amenities/activities: Kayaking, picnicking, restrooms, visitor center, parking.

Source: NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, 172 Pembroke Road, Concord, 271-3556, www.nhstateparks.org/explore/state-parks.aspx

 

 

Visitors = money
Parks seek to bring in the crowds
 

By Jeff Mucciarone
jmucciarone@hippopress.com

The New Hampshire state parks system is gearing up for another season of hikers, campers, boaters and sight-seers.

“I think we have a lot of reasons for optimism,” said Gail Wolek, interim director of the state Division of Parks and Recreation.
The only self-funded parks system in the country, New Hampshire’s state parks include 75 properties statewide. The park system protects and preserves land of unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational and natural value. Parks ensure land is accessible for recreational, educational, scientific and other uses consistent with protection and preservation. Finally, the park system encourages and supports tourism and economic activity.

“I really do believe state parks have a lot to offer and they make a big contribution fundamentally to the state budget ... as well as travel and tourism, which is really important to the state and local economies,” Wolek said.

The Division has received support from the state regarding improvements throughout the system, whether that’s new cabins at Pawtuckaway State Park or improvements at Hampton Beach State Park. The Division’s 10-year strategic capital improvement plan was released in October 2009. Wolek said the Division will continue to try to knock priorities off the plan’s list.

It’s difficult to predict how a given season is going to turn out in terms of revenue, given that the system is so dependent on weather. Tourism officials say Memorial Day Weekend ended up providing a promising start to the summer season. According to the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development, businesses, attractions and campgrounds reported lots of activity. Wolek said last Thursday that almost 80 percent of camp sites in the system were reserved.

“It’s always difficult to predict,” Wolek said of the weather. The hope is that if bad weather strikes, it moves through quickly, she said.

The parks’ staff work to make sure the infrastructure is in place for the diverse needs of visitors, whether that’s electric hook-ups, camp stores, supplies or firewood.

“When they get here, they can stay for a bit,” Wolek said.

The park system sees lots of international visitors.

“That’s a clientele that’s very important to us,” Wolek said. “When they come they’ll stay for a week or two.”

Money doesn’t grow on trees
The ripple effect of tourism and the parks system is significant. Wolek said outdoor recreation contributes about $45 million directly to the state budget and about $450 million indirectly from restaurants, supply companies, hotels and lodging.

The in-state clientele is naturally important as well. The strategic plan reported that 75 percent of residents have visited a state park in the last couple years.

The challenge for the Division is how to produce revenue.  It’s always a struggle to deal with deferred maintenance and to stay on top of staffing needs while making sure parks are open when people want them to be, Wolek said.

As of two years ago, the system was falling more than $400,000 on average per year over-budget. The system has been consistently under-funded since the early 1990s, when it went to the self-funding model. Officials said the system needed to foster partnerships with private entities and local governments. A Senate committee in 2006 determined there was a need to examine just how viable the self-funding model was.

“We try to have conversations on revenue enhancement as well as keeping expenses as low as possible,” Wolek said.
Wolek said she carries the strategic plan with her everywhere she goes, when she talks with legislators and officials. The Division uses it as a template.

With the budget always a concern, the system often failed to address capital needs in a timely fashion. That could be degrading picnic tables, bathrooms, cabins, bridges and other infrastructure. Still, the parks’ physical settings certainly haven’t suffered. Doing everything in the 10-year strategic plan would cost about $75 million in capital money, according to the report.

While some parks, such as Hampton Beach and Pawtuckaway, thrive and subsequently drive revenue, others don’t and many never will. That doesn’t make the financially under-performing parks less important, but it does provide challenges for park officials, officials say.

“It would take an awful lot of money to do everything we want to do,” Wolek said. “But we’re feeling good about the projects that we were able to do.”

A number of little projects from the strategic plan have taken place already, including trail improvements at Pisgah State Park and improvements at Hampton Beach, which probably qualify as a bigger project. Wolek said Hampton Beach, which generates the most revenue of the state parks, received a lot of attention this year. It’s in the midst of some improvements. One of the items highlighted in the strategic plan was figuring out how to maximize revenue from the most successful state parks.

“I would say we’re constantly figuring out how much we can get for each dollar that we earn,” Wolek said.
In terms of capital improvements, Wolek said the Division is constantly looking at its priorities.

“We hope to be part of the solution, not the problem,” Wolek said.

The new state park license plate is another new revenue stream for the Division.

The Division works with the Division of Travel and Tourism Development to entice visitors to stop by any of the state parks. The Staycation and Dream Vacation initiatives would hopefully draw more and more visitors, Wolek said. 

“People get really familiar with the parks,” Wolek said.

The Division is naturally focused on healthy living and getting people outside. It’s also about awareness, making sure people know where parks are, making sure the website is as user-friendly as possible, Wolek said.

The Great Park Pursuit is geared to introduce children to the great outdoors with activities focused on outdoor recreation and conservation education, such as fishing at Greenfield State Park or yoga by the sea at Odiorne Point State Park.  So far, 95 teams have enrolled in that this year, Wolek said.

The Division will hold lots of interpretive programs this season as well, such as Discover the Power of Parks.

Small changes can make a big difference. Families can now rent bicycles in Franconia Notch State Park so they can ride back and forth between Cannon Mountain’s tram and Flume Gorge. “A lot of families like to do that,” Wolek said.

Visit www.nhstateparks.org or call 271-3556.

 

Getting kids in parks
Program gets families outdoors and moving

By Adam Coughlin
acoughlin@hippopress.com

Summer vacation can stretch on a bit. There are only so many trips to the library you can take, so much lounging by the pool you can do, and so many superhero movies you can stand. Fortunately, the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation has got your back. Its Great Park Pursuit has been entertaining and engaging New Hampshire families for the past five years.

It began with a challenge. In 2006, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection visited New Hampshire to talk about some of the programs that state was implementing, according to Amy Bassett, public outreach for the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. One program in particular was Connecticut’s No Child Left Inside program, which encouraged youngsters to get outdoors and explore natural resources.

This concept was inspired by the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, which asserted that many children today are nature deficient. Bassett said this phenomenon wasn’t as apparent in New Hampshire, but after closer inspection, she said the state found that kids were addicted to their televisions, Playstations, iPods and a variety of other technologies that kept them locked indoors.

“Kids have more and more reasons not to go outdoors,” Bassett said.

At that meeting, the Connecticut commissioner playfully challenged New Hampshire’s Division of Parks and Recreation to follow his lead and implement a similar program in the Granite State. The challenge was not only accepted, according to Bassett, but New Hampshire has taken the program to new heights.

It began five years ago at the end of May or in early June. Bassett said in that first year, the Division had activities lined up for five consecutive weeks. The activities were based on clues, which weren’t given until Friday night, at which time the teams (made up of families) would know which state park they were going to.

“After that first year we got feedback and learned people didn’t want it five weeks in a row,” Bassett said. “So we stopped doing that and our numbers increased.”

Bassett said that first year 75 teams signed up but only 15 to 20 teams followed the program to the various parks around the state. The next year, after there was some space between events, 85 teams signed up and about 40 actively participated.

The program continued to evolve in its third year, when it moved away from clues. Bassett said if parents were taking their kids to the park for the weekend, they wanted to camp out. Now all the dates are pre-planned, which may have been the single most important change. Since then, attendance has skyrocketed. Two years ago they capped the number at 140 teams, and last year there were 150 teams registered and 90 to 100 that followed regularly.

A team is typically a family but can often be a group of friends. The only requirements are that one member must be under the age of 18 and one must be over. Bassett said the largest team last year was one family that had 10 or 11 members on it.

Bassett said one year the number of teams greatly increased because a bunch of home-schooled students started participating. She said the Great Park Pursuit is a great way for people to make friends.

Even coming up with a team name can be a fun activity for the family. There is plenty of room for creativity. Last year some team names included: 90 percent Chance of Rain (apropos this year), Team Knuckleheads, and Squirrel Nut Zippers.

“People really love the fact that the Great Park Pursuit is an opportunity to go outside and experience New Hampshire’s natural resources,” Bassett said. “It is also nice that it’s free. But the memories are priceless.”

This summer the program will kick off on National “Get Outdoors and Play Day,” which is Saturday, June 11. This event will be held at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown (www.nhstateparks.com/bearbrook.html). After that there will be events on Saturdays, June 25, July 9 and July 23 — however, specific locations for these days have yet to be determined. Bassett recommended checking in at www.nhgreatparkpursuit.com.

Bassett said the fact that the dates are now planned is helpful for parents who may be struggling to think about what they could do. Now, all they have to do is show up and enjoy a great day with their kids.

But what can a family look forward to doing on one of these days?

Bassett said families will arrive and be able to participate in different activities over the course of the day, which is usually scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bassett said events could include activities like making s’mores, building a shelter, working with a compass, learning about edible vegetation or taking nature hikes. Typically, at every event there are arts and crafts to be enjoyed and then each event usually has some activity specific to it, like fishing at Greenfield State Park in 2009 and yoga by the sea at Odiorne Point State Park last year.

As the staff of Parks and Recreation isn’t huge and they don’t have a lot of money to use on the event, they often collaborate with other state organizations, like New Hampshire Fish and Game, and sponsors. Bassett said these experts provide great instruction for youngsters. For example, there may be a 30- to 45-minute hands-on ponding class, where children can use a net in a pond and then have an instructor point out all the different things they pulled in.

“It is a great combination of fun and education,” Bassett said. “What better time to teach kids the importance of stewardship?”

 

 

 

A sight to see
Waterfalls add extra sparkle to a state park visit

By Angel Roy
aroy@hippopress.com

The gems in New Hampshire’s state parks are worth the trek, said Erik Nelson, manager of the New Hampshire Parks Central Region. Some of the gems Nelson referred to tower above state trails at a staggering 200 feet, others check in at 30 feet, but the water cascading from the state’s waterfalls is a sight to see at any size.

At 200 feet tall, Arethusa Falls in Crawford Notch State Park stands as the highest waterfall in the state. The falls are found a mile and a half from the Willey House site off Route 302 in Crawford Notch.

“It’s quite spectacular when you get there,” said Amy Bassett, public information and outreach specialist for the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation.

Nelson also talked about the staggering size of Arethusa Falls. “It’s huge, especially when you’re standing at the bottom of it,” he said. “It’s a long waterfall and also, when the waterfall is really going, it’s wide too — maybe 50 feet or so. It’s an impressive waterfall.”

Along the way to Arethusa Falls, visitors will pass Bemis Brook and Coliseum Falls. The Flume and Silver Cascades can also be seen from the road on Route 302 in Crawford Notch. Crawford Notch is also home to Beecher Cascades, Pearl Cascades and Gibb Falls (35 feet).

Bassett noted one of her favorite waterfalls as Beaver Brook Falls, a 30-foot waterfall on Route 145 between Colebrook and Stewartstown Hollow.

“It’s just a wayside where you pull off the side of the road and there is a little area where you can sit and look at the waterfall,” she said, adding that there are a park benches and a small pavilion area near the falls.

“You’re just driving on this road and boom — there it is,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

“At the falls you’re not going to sit at a picnic table; you’re going to sit on a rock and have your picnic, which is always a great way to explore,” Bassett continued.

One draw of making the trip to see the falls in the Granite State is that they can appear different at every visit, depending on changes in the water level.

“If there was heavy rain, the water can be raging,” he said. “In the summer, it can be a trickle.”

The falls still attract visitors in the winter as some outdoor enthusiasts use them to try their hand at ice climbing, Nelson said, noting Arethusa Falls as one of the state’s most popular ice climbing spots.

Autumn is the peak season for waterfall visits not only because of the fast rushing water resulting from late summer storms but also because of the fall foliage, Nelson said.

“During the summer a lot of falls are still active, but they’re better to look at when the water is high,” he said.

There are no state park tours that will take you directly to the falls except for one at Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park.
Nelson noted that waterfalls are clearly marked in trail maps at most state parks.

“They’re easy to find and very well signed … and pretty easy to get to,” he continued. “You know it when you see it.”

Flume Gorge tours cost $13 for adults ($10 for children ages six to 12, free for children five and younger with paid adult admission) and run daily from May 12 to Oct. 23. The Flume Gorge extends 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty and guests may opt to use a boardwalk to hike through covered bridges and pass waterfalls.

Nelson said while the water is deep enough to swim at Flume Gorge, the pools of most falls are usually only knee deep.

“They’re OK for wading but the water isn’t necessarily deep enough to swim in,” Nelson said. Jackson Falls in Jackson Village, Lower Falls off the Kancamagus near Conway and Swiftwater in Bath are also popular swimming spots.

While climbing the rocks surrounding the falls is not prohibited, it can be dangerous to attempt, especially if the water is coming in heavy, Nelson said.

“The rocks can be wet and slippery. … People do tend to climb up and around them to get better views and fall around, but we’ve had several falls throughout the year because of that,” he said. “There are some bad spots.”

As for rafting, Nelson said you might be able to “but only once.”
 






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