Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: National Forest exhibit is making the rounds

By ROB BURBANK July 06. 2018 6:10PM

“Alpine Tundra: Westside Trail on Mt. Washington” a work in marquetry by Craig Altobello, is part of “The People's Forest: A Centennial Celebration of the White Mountain National Forest” on exhibit at Plymouth State University's Museum of the White Mountains through Sept. 12. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent file photo)

The White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) is enjoying its 100th year, following a May 16, 1918 proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson establishing it as the first national forest in the eastern United States.

In 2011, we celebrated the century mark of the Weeks Act-the enabling legislation that allowed for the creation of forest reserves east of the Mississippi River. The first local land acquisition-a tract of just over 7,000 acres in Benton - took place in 1914, but it wasn't for another four-plus years that the national forest designation came about.

Today, the White Mountain National Forest stretches over nearly 800,000 acres in New Hampshire and Maine and is one of the nation's more prized pieces of public land for recreation, including hiking, paddling, skiing, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, camping, and other outdoor pursuits. More than a destination for recreation, the WMNF is a multiple-use forest, also managed for such values as timber production and harvesting, wildlife habitat management, and watershed protection.

The forest's rich history is celebrated in an exhibit currently featured at the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University. "The People's Forest: A Celebration of the White Mountain National Forest," is open to the public through Sept. 12 at the museum at 34 Highland St. in Plymouth. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays and holidays.

Co-curated by David Govatski and Cynthia Robinson, the exhibit covers significant milestones in the forest's history. Highlights covered include the role of volunteers, including trail stewards, citizen scientists, and volunteer ski patrollers; the contributions of the Citizen Conservation Corps, whose members created campgrounds and other improvements on the forest and helped clear the damage wrought by the Hurricane of 1938; the importance of the forest as a recreational resource; and the significance of such structures as the Fabyan Guard Station, which was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.

To help ensure these once-in-a-century messages reach folks around the region, the museum is making smaller, traveling exhibits available for view at various locations over the next several weeks.

Among those locations is the AMC's Highland Center at Crawford Notch, where the traveling exhibit will be available for viewing during regular business hours through July 16. It will move to AMC's Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch on July 17, where it will be on display through July 30. The exhibit is set to be on display at the Conway Public Library from Aug. 1-14, back to the Highland Center from Aug. 15-23, and at AMC's headquarters at 10 City Square in Charlestown, Mass., Aug. 24-Sept. 15.

History buffs and outdoors enthusiasts alike also can give a tip of the hat (next year) to the Crawford Path, which in 2019 is set to mark its 200th year. Initially cut by settlers and innkeepers Abel Crawford and his son, Ethan Allen Crawford, the path today is used as a hiking trail running from Crawford Notch to the summit of Mount Washington, and is recognized as the oldest continuously maintained recreation path in the country.

As with essentially all hiking trails, the route requires regular maintenance to combat erosion and protect both the trail itself and surrounding resources. To that end, the U.S. Forest Service has temporarily closed a section of the trail near Mount Monroe while much-needed reconstruction is performed. Assisting the Forest Service is a collection of trail clubs laboring as the White Mountain Trail Collective ( The Forest Service anticipates reopening the trail later this summer. An alternate route that bypasses the closed section is available for hikers.

Volunteers are encouraged to participate in these Crawford Path trail maintenance efforts. Saturday work days are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 14 (New Hampshire Trails Day) and Aug. 18. Volunteers should meet at the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch. More information is available by calling 466-8156, or by emailing

Rob Burbank is director of external relations for the Appalachian Mountain Club ( in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly.

HikingOutdoors with the AMCNewHampshire.comPhoto Feature

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