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July 13. 2011 10:32AM

Lots of family-friendly activities planned for Weeks Act celebration July 29

You could say it's been 100 years in the making, though a century ago, I don't imagine folks were thinking much about a festival to celebrate what was to become one of the most significant pieces of conservation legislation in our nation's history.

I'm referring to a bill that bore the name of Massachusetts Congressman and Lancaster, N.H., native, John W. Weeks, who sponsored the landmark legislation that established the eastern national forest system and led to the creation of the White Mountain National Forest, today a multiple-use landscape of nearly 800,000 acres managed for recreation, timber harvesting, wildlife habitat protection, wilderness values, and watershed protection for the benefit of the public.

Logging played an important role in New Hampshire's history, and the region's forests are still prized for their timber. But indiscriminate logging practices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to scenic devastation, massive forest fires, and erosion that affected the water supply downstream-water that was needed to power the region's textile mills.

An unlikely coalition of conservationists, manufacturers, policy makers and others joined together to support passage of the Weeks Act of 1911, which allowed the federal government to purchase lands east of the Mississippi River for inclusion in the national forest system. Now, a century later, citizens are once again united around the Weeks Act-this time celebrating its success and the public benefits that have come from it, and also considering what lessons those successes may hold for the next 100 years.

In recognition of the significant anniversary, White Mountain National Forest representatives and a wide variety of partner organizations have joined forces to develop the Weeks Act Centennial Festival, a day-long, family-friendly event offering activities designed to highlight recreational opportunities, products, attractions, and partnerships that are integral to the spirit, health, and culture of the White Mountain National Forest today.

The free festival is set to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 29, at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Among the day's offerings are Junior Ranger activities; water, pond, and stream discovery activities; a weather demonstration by representatives of the Mount Washington Observatory; a hands-on watershed display; and the mobile forest heritage museum, "Way of the Woods."

Crafts and craftspeople will also be featured, with demonstrations to include a cross-cut competition with the University of New Hampshire Woodsmen; wood-turning; basket-making; and an old tools demonstration. Representatives from the national forest and the Appalachian Mountain Club are set to lead a hike to view various trail structures and discuss techniques of trail management and trail maintenance. AMC representatives are also set to lead an interpretive hike during which they will point out White Mountain flora and fauna.

Logging history interpretation is set to be provided by Dick Fortin, and performances are slated with storyteller Rebecca Rule; Jeff Warner performing lumber camp songs; fiddler, Patrick Ross; and Marek Bennett and his band, Big Paws.

Festival partners include the White Mountain National Forest, the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, Weeks State Park Association, Plymouth State University, the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, members of the Weeks family, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire forests, and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Prior to the festival, on Friday, July 15, a guided Weeks Act Celebration Hike is set to be offered by Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests Education Director Dave Anderson and Appalachian Mountain Club Senior Interpretive Naturalist Nancy Ritger along the Crawford Path to a rare patch of old-growth forest in the Gibbs Brook Scenic Area of the White Mountain National Forest. The Forest Society and AMC were among the active groups that worked to help pass the Weeks Act. The hike will commemorate the vision of those early Weeks Act supporters. The hike is free, but space is limited and registration is required by e-mailing signup@forestsociety.org or calling 224-9945, ext. 313.

Weeks Act festivities continue in August with the "8 Days of Weeks White Mountains Cultural Festival," which is set to offer a wide variety of activities and events celebrating New Hampshire's heritage, arts, and environment. Activities are slated over the course of four consecutive weekends in different areas of the state: in the Plymouth to Lincoln area, Aug. 6 and 7; Franconia to Lancaster, Aug. 13 and 14; Mt. Washington Valley, Aug. 20 and 21; and the great North Woods, Aug. 27 and 28.

The festival is coordinated by the Arts Association of Northern New Hampshire and presented in partnership with the White Mountain National Forest and Arts Alliance members and partners. Details are available at www.aannh.org/weekslegacy or by calling 323-7302.

Information about Weeks Act news, events, and history is available at www.weekslegacy.org.

Rob Burbank is the Director of Media and Public Affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch. His column, "Outdoors with the AMC," appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News.


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