Conservation Groups Clean Up Mt. Major
ALTON, April 19, 2015 — To celebrate the upcoming Earth Day, groups of experienced and budding conservationists took to the trails of Mount Major on Sunday with hopes of making it a nicer place for hikers.
Students from Prospect Mountain High School’s Environmental Club started their work in the parking lot. Armed with trash bags and rubber gloves, students Madison Morton, Ruby Jones, Hannah Gagnon and Jenica Locke helped clear trash left by careless visitors.
Teacher Sarah Thorne said the club meets weekly and works to promote recycling and environmentally friendly practices in the school. She said 10-15 members help empty recycling bins, put up posters and encourage recycling during class time.
They’re also experienced in the outdoors and helped cut and maintain a trail system used for ecology classes. After Prospect Mountain’s Outing and Environmental Clubs visited the mountain to remove graffiti last year, Thorne said the Environmental Club wanted to come back.
“Mount Major is like the home mountain for our community, for our students and for our school,” Thorne said. “We feel that it’s important to build a sense of community responsibility.”
She said that’s why the school has a yearly freshman trip up the mountain and requires students to complete 30 hours of community service before graduation.
“Kids hear a lot of negative things in the news about social and environmental problems and this gives them a chance to do something and to see that we can make things better,” Thorne said.
Although some of the students didn’t get back from a track meet until around 9 p.m. on Saturday, they still got up early to lend a hand.
As they high schoolers moved up the Mount Major (blue) Trail to the summit, they were led by Dave Anderson and Brenda Charpentier, of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
The society recently took the lead in a $1.8 million fundraising drive to buy four parcels of land near the mountain. With help from the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition, the purchases will lead to 950 more acres of conserved and protected land.
Without that land, groups like the Belknap Range Trail Tenders are limited in where they can provide trail management. Students met up with members of the nonprofit Trail Tenders near the summit as they were building cairns, stacks of stones that help people find the trail.
Volunteers with the group worked together as they arranged heavy rocks on top of another – at times, a very delicate balancing act.
Hal Graham, the BRATTS founder, said they bring up bars and straps to more easily carry the rocks “but they like to manhandle them more.”
“It’s work but it’s fun work,” Graham said. “It’s physical work but you only handle what you can handle.”
Graham is a well-known trail tender in the Lakes Region. Since 1978, he worked with different groups and managed many of the trails in both the Belknap Range and Sanbornton.
The trail tenders got their start about 15 years ago but were limited because Graham was still working at the Belknap Mountain fire tower.
“Weekends you’ve got to be there and you can’t do it any other time,” Graham said. “Once in a while when I would have a day off on a Saturday, I’d work with the crew.”
Now that Graham’s retired, the group works in the Belknaps regularly and continues to expand.
“Last year was my bet year. We had good turnouts,” Graham said. “We got a lot of good work done, especially on the Red Trail on Belknap.”
People who are interested in helping to maintain the Belknap Range can contact Graham at email@example.com or check them out on Facebook.