Conservationists to be honored at harvest supper on Thursday by Belknap County

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Food, wine and music, along with a silent auction, will be featured at Thursday’s fundraiser for the Belknap County Conservation District, which will recognize two individuals who have supported protection of the environment.
Moulton Farm is donating its services to allow the agency to keep all of the proceeds of the evening to continue its efforts to protect Belknap County’s natural resources.
Donna Hepp, chairman of the board of supervisors, said the event will begin with a farm tour at 4:30 p.m., with the farm-to-table harvest supper beginning at 5:30 p.m. Rob and Patsy Tucker will provide live bluegrass music.
Wine from Hermit Woods Winery will accompany Moulton Farm’s locally grown and sourced harvest supper.
The conservation district is actively seeking grants and donations to support its work, which includes helping landowners and municipalities with natural resource issues ranging from questions about best management practices to technical guidance on particular problems involving soils and slopes.
Although it receives assistance from Belknap County, the conservation district is considered an “outside agency” and consequently cannot rely on continued support. While county contributions remained consistent for a number of years, Hepp said the funding has dropped for the last three years, from $92,000 to $80,000 to $60,000.
The agency successfully applied for some grants to support its projects, and last year received $70,033 in a New England Forest and Rivers grant to develop a forest plan for Gunstock Mountain Resort. The New England Forests and Rivers Fund is a public-private partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Fund, Eversource’s Partners for New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife, the American Forest Foundation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service.
The conservation district also leveraged a $10,000 Moose Plate grant to work with Trout Unlimited to develop a stream restoration assessment for Poorfarm Brook.
As a result of that work, the agency was successful in seeking a $55,730 Forest and Rivers grant this year to create American woodcock habitat and restore two miles along the Poorfarm Brook. The agency also plans to hold stream restoration workshops at Gunstock which will include visiting the stream restoration project site.
Hepp said last year’s grant also allowed the group to do research into the latest boardwalk construction methods to address problems with the Wetlands Walk, a quarter-mile trail next to Gunstock’s campground. They held 10 work days to make temporary repairs to the boardwalk, but they still need to address sections that are tilting by augmenting the supports, Hepp said.
The agency lists its top priorities for Belknap County as being agricultural conservation, community planning and water quality, wetlands and surface mining, wildlife and woodlands, and air quality and energy.

Donate food, get into Friday's game for free

10 10 Shopping Sachems

Laconia High School football captains Drew Muzzey, Bradley Weeks, Byan McCrea, Ben Beliveau and Riley Roy shopped at Hannaford Supermarket as part of the New Hampshire Takles Hunger effort. Friday night's game between the Laconia Sachems and the Kennett Eagles at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 will be this year's annual New Hampshire Tackles Hunger game for the local food bank. Any fan attending that brings a non-perishable food item will receive free admission to the game. Over the last few years the Sachems have received thousands of items for local food banks.  (Roger Amsden photo)

State: Snowmobiles can’t cross Weirs Channel

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — New Hampshire Fish and Game officials aren't pleased with Public Works Director Wes Anderson's idea of putting a floating bridge in the Weirs Channel for snowmobiles.

Snowmobilers have been using a sidewalk on the Route 3 (Endicott Street North) bridge to get across the waterway and access a designated trail along nearby railroad tracks.

However, the sidewalk, the only one on the bridge, is for pedestrians. It's not marked for snowmobile use and it's not legal to use it for that purpose. The issue came to a head because pedestrians want the city to plow the sidewalk, while snowmobilers prefer it unplowed so they can run their machines across it.

As an alternative, Anderson has been researching the possibility of a floating bridge.

In a letter to Belknap Snowmobile Club President Tyson McKenna, Fish and Game Department Conservation Officer Chris Brison expressed concerns with a floating bridge. The department enforces snowmobile laws and rules.

Brison said in the letter that even if the City Council were to designate the Route 3 bridge as a snowmobile crossing, there are no legal snowmobile trails leading to it or to a potential floating bridge.

“We are unaware of any legal trails on the landward easterly side of the Weirs channel,” he said. “Approval to cross any bridge in that location will exacerbate illegal trail and road riding on the land easterly of the channel.”

And there's another problem.

Snowmobilers sometimes illegally skim their machines across the surface of the water in the Weirs Channel. One did so last winter, pulling a barefoot water skier. A video of the stunt went viral.

Someone skimming a snowmobile through the channel could smash into a floating bridge across the waterway.

“From a safety standpoint, the proposal for a floating bridge raises concern for snowmobilers that illegally skim the channel,” Brison stated. “A floating bridge may cause fatalities, and serious bodily injury to snowmobilers that have historically and illegally skimmed the Weirs channel during open water conditions. This structure poses risk for our first responders that are tasked with recovering drowned victims.”

Snowmobilers sometimes proceed north on Route 3 to use a Cumberland Farms gas station in the area. Brison said that is an illegal riding area as well, and that Fish and Game will enforce that restriction.

McKenna, the president of the snowmobile club, said the letter doesn't leave many options.

He said that it's possible the city could find some solution, but he said the city has not been in contact with him.

“Until the city wants to reach out, there's not much we can do,” he said.

McKenna also said that the floating bridge idea never made much sense, anyway, particularly because there's no money to pay for it.

The issue has been placed on the Tuesday City Council agenda, but given the state's position, Anderson, the city's Public Works Director, doesn't think councilors will take action on the matter.

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