Hampton explores town forest idea

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By Kyle Stucker

Hampton Union, March 28, 2014

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — Selectmen may sponsor a warrant article next spring to create a town forest in order to protect an area that is currently used for personal recreation and wildlife habitats.

Hampton Conservation Commission Chairman Jay Diener appeared before selectmen Monday night to present a proposal for establishing the "Twelve Shares" area of town — a wooded area bounded by the North Hampton town line, Mill Road, Barbour Road, Woodland Road and Munsey Drive — as the official Hampton town forest.

The forest is mentioned in Hampton's Master Plan, and past Town Meeting appropriations have referenced a town forest despite the fact that no such place has ever formally been established, according to officials.

Diener said it's "important to have the residents of Hampton involved" in the process to create a town forest, which is why he asked selectmen Monday to also seek approval to establish a committee to oversee the forest and create a map of the trails and streams within it, among other things.

"There are a lot of people who use Twelve Shares ...; for a variety of activities," said Diener.

Town Manager Fred Welch said a Town Meeting vote is required to establish a town forest, and he said state statutes require a committee of "three to five members" to oversee it. He said the latter point doesn't prohibit additional conservationists and other individuals from working on the project.

Diener said he'd also like add additional trail markings, signage, benches and trash cans to parts of the forest to help increase the ease of its use and to limit the impact to wildlife due to waste and potentially damaging off-trail activities.

Another provision Diener said he'd like to see as part of the warrant article is the creation of a new Web site in order to establish an interactive place where people can go to learn more about the forest, its trails and the overall plan for the area.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Mary-Louise Woolsey said she "strongly" supports the plan, although she said she'd like to see "some type of provisions" for "enforcement" and protection of the area. Woolsey, who lives near Twelve Shares, said it's "one of the last forested areas in town."

"There are so few places for animals to go now," said Woolsey, who along with the rest of the board voted Monday to authorize Diener's efforts to move forward. "It's one of the few (wooded) places left in the east part of town to enjoy."

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