Just as mighty rivers such as the Merrimack, Connecticut and Piscataqua start with a few trickles that become nearly unstoppable currents, so does conservation of special places often begin with a few individuals willing to take action.
Saturday in the town of Sunapee, locals and summer residents celebrated one such individual with the dedication of the Herbert Welsh Trail on town-owned land known as the Dewey Woods and Garnet Hill.
Welsh (1851-1941) was a summer resident of Sunapee during the early decades of the 20th century who was known for his annual walking sojourns from his home in Germantown, Pa., to his summer place in New Hampshire. He completed his last such trek in 1928 at age 77.
Welsh was also a painter, and this summer the new trail is marked with more than 30 images of his art and other historical Sunapee landscapes connected to Dewey Woods, Garnet Hill and Lake Sunapee. (Images also will be on display at the Sunapee Historical Society Museum at Sunapee Harbor.)
"These historical images tell a story of the evolution of our landscape since 1900 and bring together a display of some of (Welsh's) paintings, many with Sunapee connections," said Barbara Chalmers, who led the effort to create the Herbert Welsh Trail and the Nature Art Walk.
"Welsh was THE advocate and leader of conservation efforts for Mount Sunapee and the Dewey Woods," Chalmers said, adding that he was known for signing his correspondence "Yours for a more glorious Sunapee."
Welsh was an ardent campaigner for conservation in his day, operating as the head of the "Sunapee Branch" of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests during an era when the organization had multiple chapters around the state. He did then what conservationists often do in their local communities today - recognize an opportunity to protect a place valued by those who live and visit there, and build a consensus to conserve it.
And, like conservationists today, Welsh worked hard to raise the funds necessary to acquire the land, convincing the town to contribute $2,000 while soliciting another $3,000 from private individuals - many of them his fellow summer residents.
In 1938, the town of Sunapee acquired Dewey Woods, which it still owns today, 75 years later, along with abutting parcels on Garnet Hill. The Forest Society holds deeded interests on those lands that afford a level of protection.
According to Sunapee resident Midge Eliassen, it's Chalmers who has followed in Welsh's footsteps (though, as far as I know, not all the way to Pennsylvania and back) and championed the creation of the Herbert Welsh Trail.
Designed and completed last year, the trail adds public hiking access to more of the town's conservation land at Dewey Woods, including the Rogers Brook Marsh and the top of Garnet Hill.
"The Welsh Trail takes you into a new patch of woods that used to have an open view of the lake," Eliassen said. "Part of the trail also allows easy access to a set of trails that interpret forest management that were established by Sawyer Webb a few years ago."Every town has a special place like Sunapee's Dewey Woods and Garnet Hill. And every town has someone like Herbert Welsh or Barbara Chalmers. We are all better off as a result.
"Forest Journal" appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Jack Savage is the editor of Forest Notes: New Hampshire's Conservation Magazine, published by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.