N.H. Parks' Progress/Needs Noted During Tours
Editor's Note: On Aug. 28, a group led by New Hampshire Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce and hosted by Executive Council Ray Burton toured state parks and waysides in Crawford Notch and the Berlin/Gorham area of New Hampshire. Participants heard about the positive changes taking place in these locations, problems overcome and hopes for the future. Excerpts of that meeting follow, courtesy of The Berlin Sun.
The Crawford Notch sites visited included the Willy House complex and the Dry River Campground (36 campsites). Dry River was devastated during tropical storm Irene when a flash flood poured through the campground. Luckily, the campers had been evacuated. It was days before workers could get in to the site to start repairing the damage, which occurred at the height of the tourist season, said Kevin Donovan, N.H. Parks and Recreation Central Region superintendent. His comments echoed by Crawford Notch State Park Manager John Dickerman and Bryce, all of whom credited the fast work of the NH Department of Transportation to repair Route 302 and open access to the campground so Parks could begin repairs.
The campground lost four weeks of the 2011 camping season to the flood, Donovan said.
The Dry River canyon in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) is still washed out, said Tom Wagner, forest supervisor, WMNF, who had joined the tour group.
According to parks numbers, in 2012 operations at the Dry River Campground and the Willy House complex (food and retail, plus quaint museum), lumped together as Crawford Notch State Park, netted $15,827. Camping and day uses brought in $95,122 and concession sales of $116,966, these balanced by camp operating expenses of $95,385 and $66,000 for cost of goods and concession sale expenses of $34,877.
On the way to the next stop at the Moose Brook State Park, the group stopped at the Saw Mill River Bridge on Route 302. The bridge had been badly damaged in the wash from Irene and was opened for the first time Wednesday, the second anniversary of the devastating storm. John Seeley, contract administrator for NH DOT, explained the restoration work, which included reinforcing the channel under the bridge with the hope of withstanding channel damage from future flash floods.
Of the four revenue-producing parks visited, Moose Brook (60 campsites) had the rosiest net in 2012: $26,367, thanks to gross revenue of $94,441 with operating expense of $68,054.
"We are a regional hub," said park manager Andrew Zboray. "People use this as a base for activities. We have 60 campsites in a thick spruce and fir forest. There have been modest improvements. The park staff maintains the park — painting, keeping the forest back. But we are at the point where we need to plan for the future."
Milan Hill's net is a modest $6,024 with a total use income of $16,134 from camp and yurt rentals and day use and even more modest concession sales of $661 with cost of goods of $347. But the park has four brand new yurts that campers reportedly love, plus six campsites. The park has thoughts of expanding the camping opportunities, said Bryce. The park has pit toilets and water faucets, but the old bathhouse and its septic system is unusable and sometime in the future, a new one needs to be built. The Nansen Ski Club has adopted the park for its trail system, the park gets much winter use from skiers, and the ski club sponsors a winter carnival, now in its fourth year, but so far there is no winter camping at Milan Hill.
Jericho State Park is still in the red as far as income covering operating expenses is concerned, according to information from the Division. However, the state is hopeful that its investment will pay off. There are five new portable cabins and six tent sites, with water and portable toilets available. Its 80 miles of OHRV trails is the big attraction with a day-use area for swimming and boat launch.
Plans include a bathhouse and toilets, more campsites, and Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache anticipates that the state will receive approval to add to the park acreage with a three-way swap of land with the White Mountain National Forest and a conservation group by the end of September.
Gamache said the land purchase price has been paid but capital projects at the park have been costly, a cost that Gamache anticipates will be justified in the near future. The state's capital projects at Jericho included the following, according to a release from the department: Campground construction — $168,830; site engineering (Horizon Engineers) — $4,000; new pit toilets — $13,320; new toll booth — $14,242; visitors' center finishing — $27,952; visitors' center septic system and site work — $106,615.
"In five to 10 years, we will need to expand the campground," said Gamache.