October 02, 2013MILAN — Director Ben Wilson of the state Division of Parks and Recreation's Bureau of Historic Sites has started the ball rolling to clearcut the eight-acre site on which is located the historic Nansen Ski Jump off Route 16, near the Berlin-Milan town line.
Regional forester Maggie Machinist explained in a recent telephone interview that she expects to be ready for the required "in-house" review that will give Fish and Game, the state Division of Historic Resources and other stakeholders a chance to weigh in with their opinions and, possibly, concerns.
Machinist and Wilson are proposing to clearcut the overgrown property, from boundary line to boundary line, revealing the remarkable structure that in the late 30s was the largest steel ski jump east of the Mississippi River.
Once used for local, state and national ski jumping contests, the jump has fallen into disrepair and has not officially been used since the 80s. The state-owned Nansen Wayside Park is across the road on the Androscoggin River, and it received some much-needed drainage and maintenance work this past summer.
"We're just at the beginning of the process," Machinist said. If approved, the tree cutting would likely be done in the year 2014.
Wilson said during a recent Parks Department tour that he would also like to install one or more interpretive signs and possibly to have some sort of safe platform constructed that would allow visitors to get an idea of what ski jumpers saw — and felt — before beginning their slide down the steep incline to soar into space.
A state historic marker was installed in November 2011, highlighting the jump's significance, honoring the contributions of Scandinavian immigrants to Berlin and the North Country, and acknowledging the role of the Nansen Ski Club, the oldest in the country.
It was the Nansen Ski Club that sponsored the jump's construction, with the work carried out by the National Youth Administration and the City of Berlin.
Once the site of local, state and national ski jumping contests, the structure has fallen into considerable disrepair and needs some life-extending stabilization.
In 1937, Clarence "Spike" Oleson was the first jumper on the 171-foot-tall steel tower. The jump boasts a 225-foot vertical drop, with a descent angle of 37.5 degrees.
The Nansen Ski Club is still very active and now maintains a network of Nordic ski trails at Milan Hill State Park.
Wilson recalls the excitement he felt as a boy when his family headed north from their home below the Notches to celebrate his birthday with a weekend stay at The Balsams in Dixville Notch. He said, "It's definitely a landmark, and I'd try to stay awake to see its silhouette against the sky."