July 08, 2015STEWARTSTOWN — Harry Brown, president of the North Country OHRV Coalition that came up with the brand "Ride the Wilds: 1,000 miles of interconnected ATV trails in Coös County," has only issued a press release and has not returned phone calls from this reporter since NHPR's North Country reporter, Chris Jensen of Bethlehem, broke a major story, based on a leaked e-mail.
The email stated that Brown, acting on behalf of the Coalition, had been in preliminary discussions with Northern Pass about getting a multi-million-dollar donation: upfront $250,000 to $500,000, 1,100 acres of land in a number of parcels in the Diamond Pond area with an-over-$1.5 million valuation, and after the transmission project is approved, an easement for a trail from Hall's Stream Road in Pittsburg to the Dixville town line on Sugar Hill plus a $500,000 a year over 10 years for a whopping total of $5 million.
Brown says that accepting this donation would not mean that the Coalition endorses the still-controversial $1.4 billon project Hydro-Quebec project.
Brown maintains that it is still premature to discuss the tentative donation because Eversource-Northern Pass has not made a firm offer to the Coalition.
If such an offer were actually to be made, it "certainly could be an incredible boost for 'Ride the Wilds,' Brown said. "As outlined, it would initially provide a cash infusion along with a donation of a little over 1,100 acres of land in the Diamond Pond area of Stewartstown and Colebrook … with nine residential structures of various sizes.
"The Coalition would then have several options: build another riding park in northwestern Coös County; lease or rent the structures or sell them to raise money; and use the cash along with (state matching) RTP and GIA grants to build out the (new) park."
Henry Sanschagrin, President of the Presidential OHRV Club
In Gorham, when asked his opinion of the potential donation, believed that using that much money to develop an ATV park in the northwestern section of Coös would be highly competitive, giving the trails at Jericho Mountain State Park, Success and Millsfield a real run for their money.
Bob Baker of Columbia, who has been a steadfast and committed opponent of Northern Pass, when asked his opinion of these discussions explained in an e-mail his conclusion that the tentative offer does constitute a bribe: "The North Country has been the tip of the spear in opposing the current Northern Pass plan to erect 2,300 steel towers across 180 miles of our gorgeous state landscapes.
"I have great hope that the OHRV clubs will want to be part of the legacy that preserved those landscapes. I have great hopes that they will not succumb to the siren song of mere money that Northern Pass tenders in exchange for their willingness to accept a bribe in exchange for support of a project that would steal the pastoral soul of our heritage.
"The towns and landowners on whom the OHRV clubs depend for their 1,000 miles of trails are worth supporting. The tourists and visitors that come to enjoy ALL forms of recreation in our scenic mountains, forests, lakes and towns deserve to be honored. They are worth supporting. The Northern Pass is here to take; not to give. It offers us nothing but destruction." Baker concluded, "The choice is not hard."
Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who knew about the donation discussions some time before anyone had leaked an e-mail to Jensen, explained that whether or not Northern Pass does go forward, the donation of 1,000-plus acres of land would solve the problem of exactly what the electric utility company should do with acreage it purchased but cannot now be used for transmission lines. If the project does go forward, Woodburn said he believes that Northern Pass-Eversource will pay for other mitigation projects at the town and-or county level.