450 Acres on Owl’s Head Trail Protected (NH)

Jefferson, New Hampshire, 12/6/2005: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, announced today that it has purchased 450 acres that comprise part of the Owl’s Head Trail, leading from Jefferson to the summit of Owl’s Head, a popular 3,258-foot hiking destination in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF).The Owl’s Head Trail begins near a state historic marker on NH Route 115, and provides a scenic route to the top of Owl’s Head, a northeastern summit of Cherry Mountain. The summit of Owl’s Head offers some of the most dramatic views of the Presidential Range found anywhere in the White Mountains.

Prior to today’s announcement, approximately ninety percent of the trail was located on private land. With TPL’s purchase, the 1.9-mile trail will cross private land for only a quarter-mile before reaching the 450-acre property that will become part of the White Mountain National Forest.

Thanks to a separate road easement from the highway to the trail, which was conveyed to TPL along with the property, the public will now be assured permanent access to the bulk of the historic trail, even if the quarter-mile stretch that crosses private land was ever closed. TPL plans to convey the trail property to the U.S. Forest Service in early 2006.Rodger Krussman, project manager at TPL, said, “we’re very pleased that we’ve been able to help protect another popular trail in the White Mountains. Private landowners are often generous in allowing public access, but the public can lose these privileges at any time. Access to the Owl’s Head Trail is now something we will never again have to worry about.”

Funding for the sale of the property to the WMNF will be provided by a Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriation from FY 2002, as a result of efforts that were led by U.S. Senator Judd Gregg with the support of the New Hampshire congressional delegation. Senator Gregg is a member of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees funding for the LWCF.

“The White Mountains represent the beauty that is New Hampshire’s natural environment. One of the best ways visitors and residents can truly appreciate New Hampshire’s breathtaking environments is by taking in the incredible views on the trails that run throughout the White Mountains,” said Senator Gregg. “Today’s announcement is another step toward ensuring the public will always be able to enjoy this unique natural resource, and I commend TPL for their commitment to this effort.”

U.S. Congressman Charlie Bass, whose district the property is in, supported the project.

“Public access to trails and recreation in the White Mountains is critical to the quality of life for all Granite Staters,” said Bass. “New Hampshire is very fortunate to have groups like the Trust for Public Land, the Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and others who work so cooperatively with land owners, local officials, conservation advocates, and sportsmen to protect our unique way of life.”

In addition, the New Hampshire office of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has made a grant from its Kit Ober Memorial Fund towards the protection effort.

“TPL wishes to thank everyone who has helped to make this project a reality,” added Krussman, “especially Senator Judd Gregg, Congressman Bass and the rest of the New Hampshire congressional delegation for securing the funding. We couldn’t have done it without them, the Town of Jefferson, or our partners at the AMC, TNC, and the WMNF. TPL looks forward to continued work with its partners to protect critical trails and trailheads in New Hampshire.”

The Owl’s Head project is part of a trail protection initiative among TPL, the WMNF, and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). The three organizations joined forces in 1998 to update a study of trails and trailheads in the White Mountains. They found that nearly one-quarter of the National Forest’s trails originated on or crossed private land. The study also identified 55 privately owned properties within the boundary of the National Forest that contain portions of public hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail. Thanks to assistance from New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, the National Forest Foundation, the Martin Foundation, and other supporters, TPL and its partners have already made significant progress in protecting over 20 miles of key trails, including:

  • Protecting over 13,000 acres near Pond of Safety in Jefferson and Randolph, in partnership with the Town of Randolph and the WMNF. The resulting Community Forest is the largest in New England, and protects several miles of trails, some of which have been in use for over 100 years.
  • Permanently conserving 60 acres in Albany surrounding the trailhead for the popular Piper Trail, which leads to the summit of Mt. Chocorua.
  • Adding 325 acres in Bartlett to the National Forest, including portions of the Moat Mountain and Red Ridge Trails.
  • Protecting 10 acres in Hart’s Location, including the trailhead of the Davis Path, one of the oldest hiking trails in the country, and serving as access to Mount Crawford, Stairs Mountain, Mount Isolation, and the Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness Area.
  • Conserving the initial section of the Castle Trail, which leads to the summit of Mt. Jefferson, the third-highest peak in New England. The trail is part of a loop trail recently identified by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top 30 day hikes in the country.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations to complete its land for people mission. In New Hampshire, TPL has protected more than 200,213,000 acres since 1987. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.