Grafton/Mahoosuc plan nears completion
Timber management to protect visual impacts.
Plans to curb unauthorized ATV/vehicle use in Riley Township.
A proposal to use the proximity of a timber management road off East B Hill Road as an educational tool.
Those tentative recommendations are among nine proposed to address management issues in the first draft of a new 15-year plan for Grafton Notch State Park and the Mahoosuc Public Reserved Lands Unit.
The land areas, managed by the state Bureau of Parks and Lands, encompass 45,000 acres within the Mahoosuc Range.
BPL updates its management plan regularly. In the past that interval has been 10 years, but this time it will be extended to 15, with a status report planned for every five years.
Public input was sought earlier this year, as work on the new plan began, and an advisory committee was established. That committee will meet to review the draft Sept. 7 at the University of Maine at Farmington. A final draft and public meeting is expected in the fall.
The planning process included an intensive review of natural and geological, historic and cultural, fisheries and wildlife, recreation and timber and renewable resources, according to the draft. The process and guidelines are described over 40 pages, culminating in nine recommendations.
Timber management, said one, “must be conscious of scenic concerns from hiking trails, both along the trails themselves, and views from trails along exposed ridgelines. Views from the Grafton Scenic Byway (Route 26) must also be protected.” The recommendation calls for a 100-foot no-cut buffer on either side of the Appalachian and Grafton Loop trails, as well as all official side trails. And for 400 feet along either side, cutting would be subject to stringent limitations to “retain the appearance of an essentially undisturbed forest.”
In addition, areas that can be seen from trails and the Scenic Byway will be managed to “avoid any obvious alterations to the landscape.”
Noting that there is unauthorized ATV and Jeep use in Riley Township on management roads and on old roads and skid trails no longer in use, the plan recommends signage, maps and guides, which would make clear such use is limited to on public use roads. Other steps could include blocking roads and utilizing game wardens. The “shared-use road” posting of a road segment in Riley would be discontinued.
The draft also calls for using a management road near a trail parking area off the East B Hill Road as an opportunity for a “teachable moment.”
The Cataracts Trail was recently extended to the parking area. “The management road is closer to the hiking trail and more visible than the bureau would normally choose,” the draft said. It recommends taking advantage of the layout to educate the public about Bureau forestry and wildlife management, through interpretive signage.
Another area of concern is the number of hiking trails in sensitive alpine areas. The recommendation is to upgrade trails to minimize impacts, such as erosion, and to raise awareness in the public regarding “Leave no Trace” principles.
The recommendations also address better coordination of recreation management in the winter and among conservation organizations; concerns about access to the Appalachian Trail from the Success Pond Road, and other timber management issues.
The Advisory Committee’s Sept. 7 meeting is open to the public. It will take place at 12:30 p.m. at UMF’s Olsen Student Center. (For the complete draft plan go to www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/planning/northern/WesternMountainsRegio....