Bronson Hill Conservation Area
Bronson Hill is a much loved part of the landscape of Sugar Hill, N.H. The open fields and undeveloped ridge line is a prominent view from Main Street, the town hall, and the community house. In several surveys about the future of town, Sugar Hill residents named this land as an important scenic value that ideally would be conserved.
Thanks to the generosity of a family with long roots in Sugar Hill, part of Bronson Hill is now permanently protected from development while staying open for public enjoyment. Rufus Perkins, his brother Jim, and their sister Louisa Porter donated a conservation easement on their 136 acres to ACT in August, 2009.
The family’s willingness to permanently protect the outstanding scenic hillside – as well as allow public enjoyment of it – stands as a testament of their commitment to ACT, its values, and to the community.
The siblings trace their love of the area to their great grandfather’s arrival in Sugar Hill in 1885. “We spent many summers as children and all seasons as adults either on Sunset or Bronson Hill,” Rufus says. “The long family connection and our appreciation of the special nature of the place made us want to keep it as it is for future generations to enjoy.”
The Perkins-Perkins-Porter land abuts ACT’s Foss Forest and the MacCornack-Evelyn Forest, the latter being the generous gift from another family with deep local roots. The combined 320 acres form a significant unfragmented tract of forestland that is home to wildlife as well as enjoyed by many for the walking trails and splendid views.
The entire ACT Board of Directors has been humbled by the neighborhood effort to conserve these special places. THANK YOU Jim, Louisa, and Rufus for your generous gift and your untiring commitment to our mission, vision and goals. Your leadership has provided us with the vision to truly see the forest for the trees!
The 85-acre Foss Forest is located off Pearl Lake Road and Post Road in Sugar Hill, NH. The wooded property with trails and lots of wildlife is the keystone of ACT’s work – it is the first land we conserved. The property came out of a family trust in 1999, and the new owner subdivided it into nine house lots – quite a jolt to the friends and neighbors living nearby who for years enjoyed walking, cross-country skiing, discovering new birds and wildflowers each spring, and hunting there. The neighborhood group organized to raise the funds to purchase the land and negotiated a bargain sale. The New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF, of Littleton, MA) facilitated the purchase, and now holds the conservation easement. The forest was named for Winifred Foss, mother of Lyman Foss, who sold us the property.
The friends and neighbors who came together to conserve the Foss Forest realized that other North Country residents faced similar challenges – what do you do when relatively small but locally important open space is slated for development? NEFF was kind enough to work with us on the Foss property, because of professional relationships some of us had with them. Otherwise, our options were limited because there was no local land trust working in the North Country. We decided to start one so that other people could do what we did. ACT was incorporated the next year.
Today, the Foss Forest has trails on old skids roads and trails built by ACT volunteers and neighbors. Some of the trails lead onto the Bronson Hill Conservation Area and into the MacCornack- Evelyn Forest. All told, ACT has assembled over 300 acres of permanently conserved land in the Pearl Lake/Post Road vicinity for all to enjoy. The Foss Forest may be entered at a log landing on Pearl Lake Road, or from the end of Post Road.
Herbert G. Whipple Conservation Area
With the generous support of more than 110 community members, ACT completed the purchase of the Whipple Farm land in the summer of 2005. The 20 acres, the last undeveloped land from one of Sugar Hill’s early farms, is located on Route 117 just up the hill from Polly’s Pancake Parlor.
The land was cleared about 200 years ago and much of it has been maintained as field ever since. At its northern edge the property abuts a large beaver pond and marsh, most of which has also been conserved.
The land has not been actively farmed for many years, but has been mowed to provide habitat for field nesting birds and other wildlife. Its preponderance of native grasses also attracts an unusual variety of butterflies and moths.
Special thanks to Tim and Janet Williams for helping organize and financially support the project, and to Polly’s Pancake Parlor for gift certificates for contributors.
The Sugar Hill Conservation Commission also made a significant contribution to the project. ACT is currently in negotiation with the commission on a conservation easement to be held by the town of Sugar Hill.
ACT will maintain the land as it is today, mowing the fields in the fall to maintain the habitat for field nesting birds and other wildlife that require grassland for foraging, shelter, and breeding. Native grassland is a disappearing type of habitat in the region as old farm fields are abandoned and grow into forests or housing developments.
ACT invites the public to enjoy the Whipple Conservation Area land for walking, skiing, snowshoeing, etc. We have also offered the schools in SAU 35 to use the field as an outdoor classroom for science.
This year we plan to place a bench near the height of land so that people can relax and enjoy the splendid views of the mountains to the east.
Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the property, except for mowing and other maintenance. In the spring and summer we will continue mowing a path from Route 117 through the field to the marsh area for easy walking.
The Sweed family owns a portion of the Lupine Field on Sunset Hill Road in Sugar Hill, one of the most photographed scenic vistas in New England. The property looks out over Franconia Notch, Cannon Mountain and Mount Lafayette all the way to the distant Presidential Range. In June the open fields are covered with purple and pink lupines. The area is famous for these flowers, and Sunset Hill is part of the area’s annual Fields of Lupine Festival. The Sweed Family made a generous donation of the development rights on their acre of the Sunset Hill lupine field in 2002.
ACT received a remarkably generous donation of 95 acres from Sugar Hill residents Doug and Martha (MacCornack) Evelyn, and Frederick MacCornack of Vachon Island, Wash., Martha’s brother. The MacCornack family has ties to the area dating to the 18th century.
The property is located off Hadley Road in Sugar Hill. It is mostly wooded, with some alder swamp. Salmon Hole Brook runs through it. Old apple trees abound, providing food for bear, deer, partridge, and turkeys. It is also a well-used stopover place for migrating birds. ACT will manage the land for high-quality timber and wildlife habitat, and plans to improve some existing skidder trails for public hiking and cross-country skiing. Hunting will be allowed with written permission from ACT. The land is adjacent to ACT’s Foss Forest and the Bronson Hill Conservation Area, making a contiguous conserved area of over 300 acres.
Martha and Rick’s paternal grandparents had owned land on Post Road since the 1920s, and in 1946, their mother, Eleanor MacCornack, bought 120 adjacent acres from farmer Harold Smith. Ellie MacCornack, her husband Don, and their children lived in the Smith farmhouse during the summers. Martha and Rick fondly remember “golden summers” spent in Sugar Hill. Martha is very pleased that her own children also had the opportunity to spend summers here, and that her grandchildren are now frequent visitors.
The MacCornack family traces it local roots to 1783, when Jeremiah Hutchins operated a tavern in the Bath Upper Village. Martha was named for her great-great-grandmother, Martha Ellen Hutchins, Jeremiah’s granddaughter. Martha’s ancestors eventually left the area to live, but family members continued coming back for summers and sometimes longer. Her maternal grandfather was an architect of the old Littleton Hospital, and her father graduated from Dartmouth. Her mother graduated from Smith. Her parents loved the outdoors, and especially skiing and hiking.
“Our parents believed in giving back,” say Martha and Rick. “They wanted to see the land maintained as it was and not built up,” Martha says of her parents. “They were opposed to selling it for gain. By donating it, we are completing their wishes. And we also look at it as our legacy for the future.”
Doug now serves on the ACT board of directors.
Sugar Hill Maple Farm
In October 2004, ACT received its most generous and significant donation to date: a conservation easement on the 255-acreSugar Hill Maple Farm and sugarbush in Sugar Hill and Easton. Then owner Charlie Stewart was well-known for his maple syrup, his knowledge of the history and heritage of sugaring, and his love of local history. Mr. Stewart’s wish was that the fields his ancestors worked so hard to clear, and sugarbush he had tended all his life, would live on when he was gone. Instead of seeing houses sprout from the fields, Charlie said he hoped “a young kid will want all this” to continue farming and making syrup.
Currently the Sugar Hill Maple Farm is owned by the Hunt family, and they continue to work the sugarbush and produce local maple syrup as their ancestors did. They welcome school groups and visitors to their property to learn about the maple sugaring process during the early Spring months of March and April.
Under terms of the conservation easement, ACT may mow the farm fields to keep them open for their habitat and scenic value. For generations, residents and visitors have walked the trails through these woods, and appreciated the farm’s place in the rural culture of the community.
Sunset Hill Golf Course
In 2002, ACT raised over $350,000 to purchase a conservation easement on the Sunset Hill Golf Course in Sugar Hill, NH. This historic property, the oldest nine-hole golf course in the state, was being marketed for residential development. An intense community fund-raising effort succeeded in permanently protecting the course and adjacent woodlands. Funds were also set aside for the property’s stewardship and future enhancement of recreational and conservation uses. The NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and the Island Foundation, as well as the generosity of over 300 individual donors, made the project successful.