By Phoebe Backler
New Hampshire Outreach Coordinator
In May 2013, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail joined more than 40 of its New Hampshire partners to discuss the state’s 50-mile section of the Androscoggin River and its vital role in the region’s economic future. Local business and landowners, and non-profit and government agency representatives gathered at the Mahoosuc Inn in Milan. It was generally agreed that the river’s paddling, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities were drawing increasing numbers of visitors—a positive sign for the local economy.
Those present also cautioned that growing numbers of people could spell disaster to the natural resource if not managed well. “We don’t want another Saco River,” was repeated throughout the evening.
The take-away was clear: We shared a belief in the promise of recreation-based tourism in our area but understood it needed to grow in step with a culture of stewardship to ensure long term economic and ecological success.
Since that meeting, NFCT has shared key resources and leadership to help evolve a loose affiliation of individuals and organizations into a productive network committed to both preserving and promoting the Androscoggin River.
Today this network, known as the Androscoggin River Committee (ARC), oversees a River Runner Steward who imparts public outreach and education in the summer at popular access points along the river between Errol and Milan. The committee also developed and distributes bookmarks with its River Code, a collection of guidelines for users based on Leave No Trace ethics. ARC also supports local festivals by offering river-based activities and marketing assistance.
Most recently, ARC has begun developing a nomination for the New Hampshire section of the Androscoggin for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service’s Rivers Management and Protection Program (RMPP). This program is designed to build a partnership between the state and riverside communities, and enhance local control of river resources.
The process begins when community stakeholders—representing a range of perspectives including agriculture, business, conservation, government, recreation, and riparian landownership—form a Local Advisory Committee (LAC) and undertake extensive public outreach to build a nomination for a local river to the RMPP. If the nomination is successful, the LAC develops a management plan for the protected river corridor. The committee also works with the state to review state and federal permit applications for development projects affecting the protected river corridor.
In other river corridors protected by RMPP, such as the Mascoma River, the heightened public awareness resulting from this multi-town planning process has encouraged responsible use by river users and developers. Funding for other related efforts is also easier to secure once a comprehensive and coordinated planning effort of this kind is undertaken.
The Androscoggin River Committee will act as the RMPP Local Advisory Committee for the New Hampshire section of the Androscoggin, and through public outreach and meetings hopes to attract new members to its network to broaden its expertise and perspective.
One such meeting will be held on April 14, 2016 at 5:00 pm at the Mahoosuc Inn in Milan, New Hampshire. ARC will discuss the nomination of the Androscoggin to the River Management Protection Program, answer questions, address concerns, and gather support for the effort. A free buffet dinner will be served thanks to the generous support of Mahoosuc Outdoors and ELC Outdoors.
If you are interested in participating in the meeting, or simply have questions or suggestions relating to this project, please contact NFCT New Hampshire Outreach Coordinator, Phoebe Backler at [email protected] or 603-449-2581.