Kent Anderson
page two






Helen Lacoss

Helen Lacoss is a widow, now in her 60's, who owns two pieces of non-contiguous land in the village of Etna, New Hampshire (located within the town of Hanover). Her daughter and son-in-law currently farm one part of the property. For most of her life the Appalachian Trail has been on her land and she considers herself a friend of the Trail, but her recent experiences with Trail officialdom have been what might best be-described as an administrative roller coaster rode.

Since the 1920's the AT, then usually called the "Dartmouth Outing Club trail," has been on Lacoss land near their wood-lot near Moose Mountain, one of the highest points in Hanover. After passage of the Trails System Act in 1968, and into the early 1970's, New Hampshire officials kept assuring the Lacoss' that the AT was going to be moved off their land onto the crest of Moose Mountain, an obviously more attractive route.

In June of 1978, as happened with Stuart Stebbins, Helen Lacoss heard from the ubiquitous Neil Van Dyke (representing himself as a member of the Dartmouth Outing Club) who informed her that the Trail was now back on her land. Not only that, Van Dyke said the AT would cross the land in such a way as to segment the property and take a seven acre chunk of corner land (Area north of Area 1 on map). The reader should note at this point that the Appalachian Trail should logically follow along property borders whenever possible. Two parties would then share the corridor surrounding the footpath. Some of the bitterest controversies have resulted when the AT strays from this logic and segments a single landowner with the Trail route.

In her communication with Van Dyke, unlike that which occurred with Stuart Stebbins, not the slightest mention was made of the National Park Service, nor was Helen aware that Van Dyke was a Park Service employee. Van Dyke kept speaking in terms of "we" when talking about the AT proposals on Lacoss land and Helen Lacoss assumed incorrectly that the Dartmouth Outing Club was fully authorized to "negotiate" land sales for the Appalachian Trail.

She later agreed to a survey and, in early 1979, asked the head of the DOC when it would take place. The Executive Director, at that time, told Helen Lacoss that the Trail was no longer on her property. Then, in the spring of 1980, an official from the Appalachian Trail Conference told her that the Trail was going to be back on her land, but at the point of her shared border with her neighbor, "Pete" Cavaney (near Area 2 on Map). Also, the ATC person said that a 1000-foot corridor was necessary for that part of the Trail, a 500-foot wide loss of land for Lacoss and Cavaney.

Since this up and down treatment has struck Helen Lacoss, she has managed to convince later Park Service officials that only a 250-foot corridor is needed for each side of the AT, and that protection can be done all by easement rather than fee simple purchase. Recent talks with the NPS, however, grow progressively "more complicated." Last year, in negotiating the easement, the Park Service said that all it needed in the easement land were building and mining rights. This year, though, the NPS altered this to include all rights not specifically reserved by the landowners. This new twist forced Lacoss to seek greater legal counsel as well as to think of the potential land use and her heirs scores of years hence. As far as she knows the Park Service has never even surveyed her land. The permission granted back in 1978 had a one-year expiration date, as is typical of most Right-of-Entry forms. Although she felt that recent years have been filled with less bitterness than the years 1978-1981, Helen Lacoss said her future "is filled with doubt." 1


E. M. "Pete" Cavaney

"Pete" Cavaney, a successful insurance executive, is the aforementioned neighbor of Helen Lacoss and he confirmed much of what she had said, although his memory was unclear as to whether he had ever been contacted by Neil Van Dyke or any Dartmouth Outing Club representative. In decades past, the Appalachian Trail had always been on his land with only a 20-foot corridor or so. He never had any problems with the older Trail and always maintained the Trail on his land himself by periodically clearing the brush. He counted the highest number of hikers who ever used the trail on his property in one year as 75.

After the Park Service took over the project, the agency proposed a massive 500-foot swath through his land which would have taken approximately 60 acres through the heart of his land (Area 2 on Map), nearly one-half of his total property. Most of the original desires of the Park Service were in terms of total fee simple purchase, but Cavaney has been able to reduce that to an easement as well as reducing the corridor to a 250-foot width as did his neighbor, Helen Lacoss. "Pete" still feels that the Trail corridor of the NPS is absurdly wide due to the fact that the common Caveney-Lacoss border for the AT is heavily wooded. He said, though, of the current AT, "at least we're down now where we can live with it." 2


Kevin and Linda Cunningham (Photo 6)

Kevin owns several acres (Area 3 on Map) immediately north of larger acreage owned by his father, A. Wallace Cunningham (Area 4 on Map). Kevin farms on the combined and contiguous 65 acres and the elder Cunningham has indicated that he will soon deed all of his land over to his son. Technically, it is his father's current property which has been impacted by the newly proposed Trail route, but the impact extends to Kevin and his family's hopes for a future on the land which will eventually be theirs.

Kevin Cunningham calls himself a "part-time farmer," a commonly heard description in New England. Most people who farm in New England do so on a part-time basis as the number of acres usually involved are so small that another job, often a "city" job of a more full-time, regular hours nature is normally required to provide an adequate income. Kevin's other job is a small computer business he runs in nearby Lebanon, New Hampshire. He is most proud, though, of the herd of 18 prize Holstein cows (Photos 7 & 8) he has raised through the relatively new process of embryonic transfer. The cows leave their barn on his land and proceed south down the pasture road (Photo 9) to graze on his father's land. The proposed Park Service Appalachian Trail would sever the pasture road from west to east and totally segment the land of his father. Kevin is very fearful of exposing his herd, the finest of which are worth in the neighborhood of $10,000 each, to the uncertain passings of unknown hikers cutting through his pasture road (Point 5 on Map).

The Appalachian Trail from the 1920's through the 1960's never went onto Cunningham land. In the early and mid-1970's, when the state of New Hampshire initiated Trail readjustments following passage of the Trails System Act, the AT was still far from the boundary of Kevin Cunningham. In the spring and summer of 1978, as occurred elsewhere, Neil Van Dyke, the Dartmouth Outing Club, and, presumably, the National Park Service relocated the AT again, off the property boundary to the currently proposed segmenting of A. W. Cunningham's land (Pink line through A. W. Cunningham land on Map).

Like so many other landowners in 1978, Kevin and Linda Cunningham were unaware of what Neil Van Dyke was really doing regarding their property. They were told .that "proposed" Trail routes were being studied with the implication that preliminary alternatives would be carefully studied before a final decision was made. In the summer of 1979 Kevin noticed a flagged route cutting across his pasture road and he began to suspect that the vague "proposal" was becoming a threatening reality. No one had informed them that the Trail would now segment their land until the fall of 1979, nearly two years after various officials and "planners" had moved the Appalachian Trail right through the middle of their land. It was not until this point that their first significant contact with the National Park Service began.

By October of 1979 Kevin Cunningham was "furious" that the National Park Service had never properly informed him of its intentions for his land and he was especially angry at the role played by the Dartmouth Outing Club. He complained to Dartmouth College about Van Dyke and DOC actions. There had been recent meetings between landowners and only members of the DOC at which AT relocation on their properties had been discussed. In November of 1979 Dartmouth College Dean Ralph Manuel ordered the Outing Club to cease such activity and to disengage itself from all Trail planning.

It was also at this point in time that Kevin Cunningham began to get organized. He and his neighbor, David Cioffi (whose experiences will be discussed in greater detail later in this Part), met with Park Service officials to air their complaints. They were angered that their input had not been sought regarding the Trail on their property earlier in the process and complained that serious alternatives were never examined. The NPS admitted as much and told the surprised pair to come up with a better route in 30 days!

Cunningham and Cioffi, despite their lack of experience. in forestry and trail planning, hurriedly assembled maps and prepared an alternative AT through Hanover within the deadline given them (Yellow line on Map). This route became known as the Cioffi-Cunningham route, or the Northern route. The Dartmouth Outing Club/Appalachian Trail Conference/National Park Service Trail proposal was the Southern route. Both were quickly submitted to an Environmental Assessment and a review process. These alternative Trails and the Assessment and review of them will be discussed in much more detail under the heading of David Cioffi's story later in this Part. Suffice it to say for now that the Cioffi-Cunningham alternative was summarily rejected by the NPS early in 1980.

The year 1980 was a particularly bitter and frustrating one for the Cunninghams. They had felt left out of a major decision affecting their lives: their future on their land. Kevin supported the Appalachian Trail and resented local allegations that he and his family were raising objections simply because they did not want the AT on their land. The Cunninghams; were perfectly willing to have the Trail on their property, even the footpath portion. Kevin wondered, though, why the Trail could not run along his property boundary as it did for the vast majority of affected inholders. His northern border, which he shared with his neighbor, Elaine Bent, (Area 6 on Map) would have been an attractive and heavily wooded route (Photo 10), except for a view of the pastoral Bent hone and farmland (Photo 11). Another objection raised by the Park Service to a route along the shared boundary was that Kevin's home and sugar house were visible through the trees. As Photo 12 indicates, the house is barely visible while the wooded sugar house is more so, but would hardly qualify as an "unsightly" development wrought by humanity. For the Appalachian Trail to dissect the middle of Cunningham land, however, and cut across Kevin's pasture road will put his herd in jeopardy and destroy his plans for livestock expansion.

Cunningham was especially galled at the actions of Dartmouth College in determining the AT route through Hanover. For the College to allow the Dartmouth Outing Club to act as it did for years, he said, was unforgivable. In effect, Dartmouth placed the management and planning of the Appalachian Trail into private hands. Equally annoying, according to Cunningham, has been the way the College has pushed the Trail away from its own land. Dartmouth is, by far, the largest landowner in Hanover and the largest employer. The university has large tracts of undeveloped land for which it may have future plans and the institution was not above using its considerable influence to direct-the route. For instance, when the Cioffi-Cunningham Northern route merely approached the vicinity of the land of Dartmouth College President, John Kemeny, the President and his wife wrote a letter complaining of this, even though the Trail proposal was over 1000 feet from Kemeny land. Kevin said that the College also steered the AT away from its skiway and recreational lands, but allowed the Trail to go through College land in the Velvet Rocks area, a steeper rocky area, unfit for future development, which has enabled the institution to claim that it has given the most acreage to the Trail, among local property owners. The proposed corridor to the Velvet Rocks area, alongside Dartmouth property known as Chase Field (Photo 13) has been earmarked for only a 20-foot corridor of land acquisition despite the highly visible development in sight for the hiker.

Kevin Cunningham was a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College and received a M.B.A. degree from the same institution in 1973. He was elected Class Agent for his class which meant that he was the one chiefly responsible for fund-raising. Had he continued in that capacity, he personally would have contributed over $10,000 to Dartmouth over the course of his lifetime. Since his encounters with the Dartmouth Outing Club, however, he has resigned as Class Agent and severed all ties with his alma mater, not without some regret.

In the last several years the Park Service has negotiated for acquisition of AT land through Cunningham property. Kevin and his family, though, are so discouraged that they are seriously considering selling all of their land to the NPS rather than live with a divided home and grazing land. Currently he is awaiting an appraisal of his land (to be paid for by the Park Service). Kevin estimated the value at between $150,000 and $200,000 and said, "I don't think they'll bat an eyelash," at whatever price is determined. If he does decide to sell out entirely, Kevin hopes to remain in the Hanover area with his Holsteins, perhaps on land of the nearby Hewes family, and start all over again. 3


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