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$5,000 awarded to State Park for feasibility study

October 07, 2009
LANCASTER — The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) has awarded $5,000 in matching funds that will go toward studying the possibility of raising a larger sum that would enable a number of improvements to Weeks State Park.

The recent donation will enable the Weeks State Park Association (WSPA), in collaboration with the state Bureau of Historic Sites in the state Division of Parks, to undertake a feasibility study on the potential for raising nearly $1 million. That larger sum would be used to restore and enhance the Weeks Lodge, to create a new visitors' center, and to restore other landscape features.

WSPA president Lynne Holland of Jefferson announced the donation, which was received on Friday, during Executive Councilor Ray Burton's Monday morning stop. Councilor Burton was on his all-day tour of state historic sites, state parks, and state forests.

WSPA members voted at their Aug. 27 annual meeting to allocate up to $5,000 to undertake such a study.

Ben Wilson, who heads up the Historic Sites Bureau of the state Division of Parks and Recreation, explained that he is passionately committed to submitting a winning application for a federal $250,000 Save America's Treasures (SAT) grant in January 2010. He is already working with the state's Congressional delegation to gain their enthusiastic support, he said.

"Weeks State Park is not just a Lancaster treasure, it's a national treasure," Mr. Wilson said.

Bob Bast, an architect and Weeks family member who serves on the WSPA board, briefly outlined the major elements of the proposed capital project: restoration and enhancement of both the Lodge and Carriage House at a cost of $525,000; and restoration of landscape and other park features, $445,000, bringing the total tally to $970,000.

At the end of his remarks, Mr. Bast handed a $4,000 check — a donation from both him and his wife Laura — to Ms. Holland to help kick off the capital campaign.

County forester Sam Stoddard, who has been a WSPA board member for 17 years, also spoke briefly.

"It's clear," he said, "that the park is treasured by local people." Mr. Stoddard added that Park activities include maple sugaring and four miles of trails on its 400-plus-acres used by hikers and also snowmobilers. The WSPA with the help of its sponsors and members presents 10 lectures and five field trips annually, bringing on average 1,200 people to its activities every year.

The park is used year-round Mr. Wilson added, making it a model for historic sites across the state.

Mr. Wilson thanked a host of state employees for their outstanding efforts: park manager Rachel Bruce; North Country assistant regional supervisor Andrew Zboray; fire tower ranger Ken Jordan, and volunteer gardeners Joanne Lambert and Debbie Arsenault.

He also explained that legislation now in effect — (SB16) introduced by Sen. Bob Odell of Lempster — that guarantees that funds donated to a particular historic site will be kept in a non-lapsing fund that is restricted for use only at that site.

The centennial of the passage of the landmark Weeks Act of 1911, which earned Congressman John W. Weeks of Massachusetts — a Lancaster native — the fond title of "Father of the Eastern National Forests," will be celebrated in 2011. The Weeks Act authorized federal purchase of forestlands at the head of navigable streams east of the Mississippi River.

Parks Director Ted Austin and Director Brad Simpkins of the state Division of Forests explained how these two Divisions of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) work collaboratively to manage state lands.

Martin Lord Osman
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