To read Concord Monitor story about long-time champion of conservation and trailwork, Terry Frost, read below or click here:
Concord Monitor story by Daniel Barrick
Terry Frost, a longtime fixture of Concord's forests and fields and a tireless advocate for conservation across New Hampshire, died this week at the age of 88.
Frost was more than just a lover of Concord's hiking trails: He cut most of those paths himself, joined by a small group of friends and volunteers. Often guided by Frost and his years of outdoors experience, they helped create the trail network that's made Concord's woodlands accessible to the public. If you've ever hiked on Oak Hill, walked along the Merrimack River at Sewalls Falls, or snowshoed across the floodplain behind the Society for the Protection of New
Hampshire Forests, you have Terry Frost to thank.
"They were so enthusiastic to build trails and so happy to have a city forest system that was open to the public," City Forester Ron Klemarczyk said of Frost and his fellow trailblazers.
Frost was the type of guy who was most comfortable outdoors. He loved hiking the White Mountains in all seasons and was a longtime member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. With his wife, Marion, he led outings through the Whites, and together the couple hiked all of the state's 4,000-foot peaks. Marion joked that her husband was most happy sleeping in a tent. As a state aquatic biologist, Frost helped clean New Hampshire's lakes and rivers after years of industrial pollution, an effort that earned him numerous commendations.
But it was perhaps in retirement that Frost left his biggest mark. Starting in the 1980s, he teamed with a handful of fellow retirees who wanted to improve public access to Concord's forests. The men sometimes followed existing logging roads and informal footpaths, but they often carved entirely new routes through the woods. Using basic tools like loppers and handsaws, yellow hard hats strapped to their heads, the old-timers spent hours breaking paths that have since given pleasure to thousands of hikers. They built bridges over soggy stretches, posted signs at trailheads and mapped dozens of miles of forest paths. And they returned year after year to maintain the routes they blazed.
Frost's crew also worked for years with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to cut trails on new land the society purchased across the state. Often, they would organize local volunteer groups to maintain those trails.
"Now we have an entire program of land stewards, but back then those guys were the trail crew," said Dave Anderson, director of education and volunteer services for the Forest Society. "That small group of retired guys could handle the entire task themselves, and they sort of ran their own show."
Early love of the woods
Frost's love of the outdoors began at an early age. He was born in Concord, and his family moved to Dedham, Mass., when he was 8. But Frost enjoyed summers as a boy with a grandmother in North Sandwich, hunting, fishing and hiking in the local hills. After the devastating Hurricane of 1938, Frost spent three summers on Bear Island in Lake Winnipesaukee, cleaning up wreckage from the storm during the day and sleeping in a tent at night. As a teenager, he wrote for several outdoors publications.
He studied biology at the University of New Hampshire, where he also reconnected with a woman he had met years earlier as a child in Sunday school. He and Marion Stevenson, a fellow Concord native, dated in college, but marriage didn't seem to be in the cards just then. Marion, whose tastes ran toward parties and dancing, wasn't sure about the young man who seemed better suited to a campground than a dancehall.
After graduation in 1942, Marion worked in Boston for several years and Terry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served for four years. But the two met again by chance after a UNH football game in 1947 and were soon married.
They moved to Concord, where Frost got a job with the state's Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission. The work was a perfect match for Frost's passions. As the state's sole biologist at the time, he spent much of his time outdoors, inspecting lakes and rivers across the state with a small trailer as his mobile lab.
The Frosts raised two children in their house on Clinton Street. On weekends, Terry Frost pursued his passion for hiking and eventually persuaded Marion to join him on some outings. Their first trip together, up Mount Monadnock, was not a great success. Near the end of the hike, Terry asked Marion if she preferred going up or coming down the mountain.
"I hate them both," she replied.
But the couple also found that New Hampshire's woods and mountains were great places to meet friends, and they soon set out to hike the state's highest peaks together.
As Frost was promoted within the state's environmental services, he found himself spending more time behind a desk and less in the woods he loved. He retired in 1982 and found a new way to indulge his love for the outdoors.
He teamed up with his friends Win Robinson, Bill Luti and Jim Abbott - all recent retirees - to open up Concord's woods to day hikers. The motivation, Robinson recalled this week, was a city councilor's suggestion that Concord sell some of its thousands of acres of forest to raise money. The idea didn't sit well for outdoorsmen like him and Frost. They crafted an alternate plan.
"The only way we could protect those properties was to get people to use them," said Robinson, who also worked as a biologist.
At the time, a primitive system of trails existed in Concord, but few knew where to find them, according to Bob Pollock, who spent 30 years with the city's planning department. Robinson and Frost had already spent hours cutting trails elsewhere in the state as volunteers with the Forest Society; they just focused that expertise closer to home.
The men led volunteer crews that spent countless hours improving the existing paths - mostly abandoned logging trails - and cutting new ones. Frost and his friends also pushed for greater investment in land preservation by Concord officials. If a new parcel of woods came on the market, Frost was often the one to examine it and assess how it fit into the city's larger conservation goals, Pollock recalled.
"If the property made sense, if it connected to other trails or other conservation land, he'd be an advocate for the acquisition of that property," Pollock said.
Frost was personally responsible for one important act of land conservation. In the 1950s, he had joined with two friends to buy 65 acres of floodplain along the Merrimack River in East Concord. Frost hoped to build a marina there and use the earnings to put his children through college. When that plan never materialized, he and his partners instead sold the land at a bargain price to the Forest Society, which was moving its headquarters to the nearby bluff. The land is still protected and open for public use. The stands of white pines near the river were planted 50 years ago by Frost with the help of local Boy Scouts.
Luti, a partner in the trailblazing, remembered ribbing Frost and Robinson once over their enthusiasm for trail cutting.
"I told them, 'If you keep cutting trails, pretty soon there won't be any trees,' " he said.
The men's work eventually resulted in a guidebook to the city's trail network. The maps are available on the city's website, concordnh.gov, and volunteers still maintain the trails.
In recent years, Frost's balance had started to deteriorate. An outing to Mount Major ended with Frost bracing himself against tree trunks on his way down. Friends carried down his backpack. Pretty soon, just walking became difficult. After a fall in 2005, the Frosts renovated their house to allow them to live on a single floor. It also meant the end of Frost's hiking days. Friends say Frost didn't grumble over the change.
"He never complained," Luti said.
But in the years before illness slowed him, Frost took time to enjoy the trails he helped carve. He and Marion often walked those paths together, including on Oak Hill, where a short stretch bears the name "Terry's Turn."