Our community lost a trail hero in March, when Bill Schomburg, an NFCT volunteer extraordinaire from Columbia, New Hampshire, passed away at age 77.
Bill was involved with the NFCT from the get-go. He helped our fledging organization map the NFCT route along the Connecticut and Upper Ammonsuc Rivers, and he connected our staff with landowners, who now host a string of campsites for paddlers and lead river trips.
As former Trail Director Jen Lamphere shared, “I remember him reciting poetry and waxing philosophical about the coming of autumn in the North Country, from a canoe seat on the Upper Ammo. I will remember him fondly and with great respect.”
He was a mainstay of our Adopt-A-Segment Program, completing site check-ins and campsite maintenance along a 33-mile chunk of river corridor. He was responsible for tying down many a picnic table to keep them safe from spring floods.
Those who may have perused the campsite registers at those sites may have noted his regular sign-ins – usually under the pen name “Excelsior.” Bill was a high school teacher for many years, and this poem was one of his favorites.
Bill was also one of the few who used the sign-in register as an activist tool. A fierce defender of the North Country in the ongoing fight against Northern Pass, he would add his two cents – “Stop Northern Pass” – to our sign-in sheets!
I first got to meet Bill a decade ago, when fellow intern Jaime McMillan, and I spent a memorable 4th of July at his home. With a house full of grandchildren, our accommodation for the rainy night was the barn, where we laid out Thermarest pads next to the straw bales. In later years, I often stayed with Bill when working in the area. On these trips, I was given a bedroom, but we always joked about where I was going to be put up for the night.
Bill also loved the Connecticut River. He paddled it Source-to-Sea twice in his retirement, logging 30-miles days. He was a mainstay of the Connecticut River Joint Commission’s Headwater committee, a regular at the annual Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail meetings, and as a member of the Columbia Conservation Commission, the instigator of several important access projects; a campsite on town-owned land, the conservation of Lyman Falls (NH), and the protection of the Columbia Covered Bridge Access.
If we needed a volunteer for a project in the area, whether it was a new campsite or informational kiosk, Bill was the first we’d call. Here is a video with a few photos that Walter Opuszinski put toether. https://youtu.be/YQeRAbi1Gl0
As he shares, “you’ll notice that Bill is either holding a shovel or has a bit of glistening sweat on his brow; he was that kind of guy.”