Students work with Trails Bureau to create new visitor center



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Students in the Building Trades Program at Berlin High School work busily building the new visitor center at Jericho Mountain State Park. The Center is set to be finished in early June. Matilda Brown. (click for larger version)
January 26, 2011
BERLIN Students in the Building Trades Program at Berlin High School have been building a new visitor center at Jericho Mountain State Park. Work started in September and according to Chris Gamache, Chief of the New Hampshire Trails Bureau, and should be finished by early June.

Gamache said that this is the first time the Trails Bureau has entered into a partnership with high school students to do work. He said that the partnership took off and is proving to be unique and beneficial. Gamache said that in the future the state may look into similar partnerships. Roland Pinette said that the State may have been interested in using the Berlin High School because it was a symbiotic relationship: the students were looking for a project and the state had limited funding.

In the past, the Building Trades students have built houses and other projects for private developers in Berlin. Pinette said the program solicits project proposals and then selects the ones that provide the best education opportunities for the students.

The developer for the project provides all materials for the project and the Building Trades program provides labor and supervision. The students do construction work, but are not licensed to do electrical or plumbing, so that part is finished separately.

The Jericho Mountain State Park visitor center was chosen because of the overall benefit it would have for the area. It promotes the mission of outdoor recreation and will hopefully make the park more attractive to people using ATVs and snowmobiles.

Matt Lambert, the instructor for the Building Trades program, said that even if students do not pursue a career in carpentry, the program gives them valuable life skills. The students work in shifts, with the second year students going to the site at quarter to eight in the morning and the first year students relieving them later in the day. During the other half of the day, the students attend classes.

The visitor center overlooks the lake and has a wrap around deck. The entrance is an airlock with bathrooms coming off to the sides, so if the building is closed, bathrooms will still be accessible. There are two offices and then a big room with a cathedral ceiling.

The goal of the visitor center is to have a nice building at the trailhead for visitors to enter and overlook the park. The building would also provide maps, souvenirs, and snacks for people coming into the park. At the moment, all that is in the parking lot is a big mounted map. With the visitor center, there will be volunteers and state employees to ask questions about the park and to help point people in the right direction.

Jericho Mountain State Park opened in 2006 and is the largest ATV park in the region, at 7,500 acres. Work has been ongoing since the state purchased the land from T.R. Dillon Logging of Anson, Maine for $2.1 million. That money came from the operating fund of the Trails Bureau which comes from ATV registrations and federal recreational trails program funds.

Once the work at Jericho Mountain State Park is finished, Gamache said the goal is to have 140 miles of trails. At the moment, less than half of the trails are completed.

The work being done on the park is federally funded through a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant for the visitor center and Trails Bureau funding for the rest of the work.

Gamache said that this summer, the Trails Bureau, partnered with the local snowmobile club — The White Mountain Ridge Runners — will be putting up a log cabin to be used year round. The cabin would provide a place to rest in the summer and act as a warming hut in the winter.

Bryan MacDonald, the trail master for the Berlin snowmobile club, said that at the moment the club is looking to build a 16' by 20' log cabin. Currently, MacDonald said, the group is in the process of acquiring the wood and other parts for the project. He said the group is also approaching area contractors to see if they would be able to donate their services to the project.

Larry Gomes, the assistant trail master, said that the group has a $15,000 Tillotson Grant that they are using to fund the project. The grant was awarded right before Christmas. Gomes said the group hopes to break ground early this summer, probably in June. The warming hut will be next to the pavilion off the Camp Loop Trail

The snowmobile club got the idea to put a warming hut in at Jericho Mountain State Park because the Jefferson Highlanders snowmobile club has a warming hut already. Gomes said that last winter, he and his niece used that warming hut when she got cold.

Gomes said that having a warming hut can make the snowmobile experience enjoyable for the whole family and will also give people a chance to appreciate the view of Jericho Mountain State Park in the winter without freezing. Gomes said the warming hut will hopefully draw more families to the area to use the Park.

Another project that Gamache has been toying with is a potential year-round campground at the park, something he thinks there is a potential niche for. At the moment, he is looking into securing funding for that project and has been investigating possible private partnerships.

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