Gov. Chris Sununu (with Mark Billings) reads a proclamation recognizing the Page Pond Community Forest project. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
August 01, 2018MEREDITH — Supporters and principals in the Page Pond Community Forest project celebrated all the efforts and dedicated work over 15 years that made this 827-acre conservation project possible.
On Sunday afternoon, Moulton Farm hosted the celebration of Page Pond that included representatives from many different organizations and government agencies that helped the effort.
J.T. Horn, Senior Project Manager of the Trust for Public Land, said he works with projects like this all over New England and said Page Pond was one of the smoothest projects he has seen. He said projects usually die around six times before they come to fruition, in this case the project probably died around 10 times.
Horn recognized "the dynamic duo" of Conservation Commission Chair Mark Billings and Community Development Director John Edgar for their extensive work on the project as well as the many others who had a hand in this being possible The TPL worked with the town to help put this project together and work through the many different facets.
"This is a team effort," Horn said. "Just reflecting on this project, this experience, working with you, working (with) the town of Meredith has been one of the most pleasant projects I've done."
Gov. Chris Sununu said this was a project that had been "done right from the beginning."
"This is what we do in New Hampshire; it's probably the biggest part of our culture that Live Free or Die thing we do," Sununu said.
He said preserving assets such as this is what people in New Hampshire do and they want to do whatever they can do at the state level to continue this.
"It's great to know there are so many great programs out there," Sununu said.
Sununu read a formal proclamation recognizing the efforts.
Billings said this has been a 15-year journey and he recognized all of those who have been part of it.
"The one thing that stands out to me is Meredith as a community has redefined community as no longer a noun," Billings said.
He said so many different town entities supported this. Billings said he doesn't remember many unanimous votes at town meeting, though the vote to accept this as a town forest was unanimous.
"All of you from Meredith take a bow, look in the mirror, be proud," Billings said.
The effort received funding from the Community Forest Program, a six-year-old program with around $2 million in funding for projects around the country. Neal Bungard, US Forest Service Program Leader, said the Page Pond project was the top ranked project in the country.
"Through the community forest program, we recognize those public benefits across the board that are being provided for these forests," Bungard said.
He said the Community Forest project is growing across the country.
"This is another crowning jewel in the community forest program in its six years of providing funds," Bungard said.
Paula Bellemore, Natural Resources Specialist for LCHIP, said in New Hampshire there is great importance placed on volunteering and on natural resources. LCHIP has provided over $40 million to state natural and historic resources throughout its history, including to Page Pond.
"We are most successful in New Hampshire when we work with our land," Bellemore said. "That's what I think makes New Hampshire New Hampshire." She added, "Meredith will now be allowed to conserve its fields and streams and its wildlife."
The project received $100,000 through the Department of Environmental Services through the Aquatic Resources Mitigation (ARM) program. Lori Sommer, Mitigation Coordinator with the DES Wetlands Bureau, said projects that apply for this funding are reviewed by a site selection committee with numerous environmental experts.
"Page Pond truly exemplifies what the ARM program is about," Sommer said.
She said this area contains numerous wetlands that flow into Winnipesaukee along with many different animal habitats. Sommer said this kind of community program is why New Hampshire's wetlands program is one of the strongest in New England.
Horn also recognized the state's Congressional delegation for its support of programs such as this.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter commending the project. She said increasing protected properties like this is a "sound investment."
"We should all take a moment to recognize the stewardship and tireless dedication of the men and women who made this all possible," Shaheen wrote.
After the event sitewalks were hosted off Quarry and Barnard Ridge Roads.