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USDA Awards Grant to Expand Pine Hill Community Forest
Conway, NH – The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust (USVLT) has been granted $190,000 by the USDA’s Community Forest Program for the Pine Hill Community Forest Expansion project in Conway. This most recent round of Community Forest Program funding includes $4 million to support 10 projects across nine states. The Pine Hill Expansion project ranked third in the country and was the only project funded in New Hampshire.
The Community Forest Program grants include financial assistance to local governments, Indian tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations to create, expand and enhance community-owned and community-managed forests. The grants help communities acquire and conserve forests that provide public access and recreational opportunities, protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners, and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.
The Pine Hill Expansion project adds significantly to the original Pine Hill Community Forest – a 460-acre project completed by USVLT in 2018. The new “Expansion Property” is 135 acres in size, and it fills in a missing “puzzle piece” of land, directly abutting the existing Forest. Once USVLT completes the purchase of the Expansion Property in early 2022, the newly enlarged Community Forest will make up a nearly 600-acre tract of undeveloped forest land in the middle of one of northern New Hampshire’s largest and busiest towns. Situated in the heart of the Valley, the expansion of the Forest has great significance for a region under high development pressure.
The property already boasts more than a mile of multiuse trails, accessible from behind Kennett High School and Conway’s Smith-Eastman Landing Park (behind the police station). A branch of the Conway “Rec Path” follows the Saco River for over 3,300 feet, mountain bike trails are scattered throughout, and a branch of a main snowmobile route (Corridor 19A) also crosses through the property. Kennett High School’s cross-country running team and mountain bike team already use many of the trails onsite, while area residents – including those at two nearby mobile home communities – use the trails daily. The proposed acquisition provides for the establishment of two new trailheads and associated parking areas, linking trails that provide access between Eagles Way and White Mountain Highway, a “sidewalk trail” along Route 16 that fulfills critical pedestrian needs, and new trails to the summit of Pine Hill itself, offering views towards both Mount Chocorua and the Presidential Range.
USVLT is currently raising funds to purchase the 135-acre addition through its “20 Years & Onward” capital campaign. (This campaign will also help purchase the Dundee Community Forest in Jackson and Bartlett, as well as seed a capital reserve fund for future stewardship work on all of USVLT’s preserves and easement properties.) The campaign just passed the 90% threshold, with more than $5.06M now committed from government grants and individual donors. (The full campaign goal is just shy of $6M.) If you have not yet pledged your support for the campaign, and would like to do so, please go to www.usvlt.org/capital-campaign
To introduce the land to our community, USVLT is holding several outings at the Pine Hill Community Forest throughout the summer through their Easement Exploration Series. Go to www.usvlt.org or email email@example.com for more information.