11-05-2014 (The Land Trust’s 50th conservation project!) – Conservation Easement
4-20-2016 – Land “in fee”
Mount Surprise, in the Kearsarge neighborhood of Bartlett, is a community gem. In 2014, the neighborhood rallied behind the Land Trust to purchase the development rights on the property (through a conservation easement), ensuring that the land remain protected in perpetuity. Then, in 2016, the four owners donated the remainder of the interest in the property (the “fee interest”) to the Land Trust. Since that time it has been owned and managed solely by the Land Trust.
Between 1887 and 1895, Mount Surprise and 40 acres of surrounding land were purchased by John Worcester in five separate tracts. Ownership of the land remained within the Worcester / Briggs family until 2016, when four members of the Briggs family, the children and heirs of Reverend Horace W. Briggs and Margaret Worcester Briggs, finalized the donation to the land trust.
In her writings, Margaret Worcester Briggs noted that after John Worcester’s purchase of the Mount Surprise tracts, “it occurred to him that there might be an unusual view from there. He had the trees on the hill cut, just ready to fell, and scheduled a picnic up there, during which one tree fell after another, disclosing a spectacular view. And the guests were ‘surprised’. This was ‘Mount Surprise’.”
The family has always wanted Mount Surprise to be open to the public to enjoy. Historically, a network of trails and carriage roads once connected the area’s old hotels and inns to Mount Surprise, Bartlett Mountain and Mount Kearsarge. The “carriage road” at the end of Mount Surprise Road remains open to pedestrian travel and provides current access to Mount Surprise.
The property is adjacent to two other easements held by USVLT — the Burnell easement and the Osgood easement. All three properties allow public access.
The easement allows for sustainable forestry to be part of this property’s future — enabling the once-cherished views across the Valley to be re-established and then maintained.