Kent Anderson
page four






Virtually no one in the Hanover, New Hampshire area questioned the validity of the Appalachian Trail. With the possible exception of only one person, every inholder interviewed by this researcher viewed it as a good thing for America's recreational needs. Additionally, the vast majority of inholders affected were willing to have part of the Trail on their land. They bitterly resented some allegations that they are simply "soreheads" trying to get the AT totally off their land. A major complaint voiced by the members of the Appalachian Trail Landowners Association and others was over the width of the corridor, in effect; haw much land was enough to buffer the footpath. Perhaps, though, the main objection heard by these people concerned the overall process of selecting the Trail: not so much the specifics of route, acreage, and width. They felt unconsulted, unnotified, and misled to the point of confusion as to whom they were confronting regarding their land and the Trail.

On this point of confusion over with whom the inholders discussed the Trail, there appears little doubt that their complaints were justified, For same reason, Neil Van Dyke hid from most of the public the fact that he was working for the National Park Service. He always identified himself as a member of the Dartmouth Outing Club and continually wrote to the affected inholders in Hanover on DOC stationary. Beyond that, many landowners complained of private citizens from the DOC and the Appalachian Trail Conference coming to them personally or writing letters which discussed such highly sensitive and crucial issues as Trail, acreage options in terms of corridor width and land-use options in terms of fee simple purchase, easement, and eminent domain. By law, the ATC, under which there are over 60 private clubs such as the DOC, was empowered to act as a consultant to the Park Service regarding the maintenance and management of the Trail, once selected by the federal government, In other words, the NPS would appropriately ask the DOC whether a particular route could be easily maintained by the private club since the government was committed to a heavy reliance on private volunteerism for AT care and upkeep.

It appears that the Park Service went far beyond this and allowed DOC, ATC members and other private citizens to conceive routes, map the Trail, discuss the quantity of acreage needed, and, most importantly, the terms of land acquisition: all powers reserved solely bar the National Park Service, At the meeting between Interior Department officials and David Cioffi and Kevin Cunningham earlier this year, David Richie, overall Park Service head of the Trail, reiterated that only the Park Service was responsible for land acquisition and the negotiations on that subject with landholders.

There is significant evidence that this policy was violated. One inholder, Helen Lacoss, received a letter from the ATC which disputed her proposal for a 50-foot Trail corridor on her land by saying that it ''would not be good enough protection." As mentioned in Part One, Eleanor Blanchard received a Park Service Right-of-Entry form from the Dartmouth Outing Club, a private club. Eventually Dartmouth College forced the DOC to disengage itself from such active negotiations in land acquisition and Trail policy, One question, then, which has never been adequately answered in the Hanover region is where does the consulting role of the Dartmouth Outing Club and the Appalachian Trail Conference end and where does the administrative responsibility of the National Park Service begin? It would appear that the statement made at the end of Part Three by the Interior Department official, "They didn't know who they were dealing with," is indeed, apt.

This apparent misrepresentation was explained to this researcher by officials of the DOC and the ATC by the following rationale. Because Hanover was considered a highly vocal college town, it was thought that the uniformed presence of Park Service personnel, wearing badges, would be inappropriate for negotiations with local people about the Trail. Therefore, the Park Service deliberately "soft-pedaled" its presence, and, perhaps, its authority by allowing and encouraging that its work be done by others, local people, "less visible," and without uniforms. As one who has lived frequently in a variety of college towns and communities, there is a certain odd logic to this reasoning, but, by the very nature of such a policy, deception and behavior which some citizens could logically call surreptitious would be an obvious by-product. The good intentions toward the community of such a cautious "low profile" policy eventually gave way to a damaging sense of anger and frustration on the part of too many people and a lessening of respect for the federal government. Carried to its logical extreme in a college town, such a policy would result in not calling the police for a civil disturbance, but rather members of the local sheet shooting club since their non-uniformed presence would presumably be more ameliorative.

The purpose of this report is not to debate the Trail alternatives. It may very well be that the Northern route proposed by David Cioffi, Kevin Cunningham, and the others of ATLA was highly flawed. The Hanover Planning Board certainly thought so. Focusing again on the process of AT selection, however, their experiences with the route are instructive. They were given only 30 days to come up with an alternative to a route which others had developed for nearly two years, Nor is there considerable evidence that the Park Service considered a variety of alternative routes, other than rejecting parts of the older trail and the work done by the state of New Hampshire. Additionally, the formal citizen review of the alternatives included not one landowner along the Trail.

A couple of specific items relating to the Northern alternative reveal notable inconsistencies in the justifications used by the Park Service in determining the Trail. For example, one part of the Northern alternative went near a pond on the property of Elaine Bent (Photo 21) near the convergence of the Stebbins-Bent-Hewes boundaries. This pond could only be seen by hikers by going off the proposed route onto a less visible path (Photo 22). Part of the reason the Park Service gave in rejecting the Cioffi-Cunningham route was that the agency called the Bent pond a "diversion" which would lead hikers to stray off the AT. Yet, at the same time, the Park Service was persuaded to stray well off the path as the Trail went through the land of Alan Adams to acquire his beaver pond, What was this pond if not an attractive "diversion?'' The Park Service said a primary consideration in determining where the AT goes should be the absence of manmade structures visible to the hikers. Yet the Trail was brought out of a nicely wooded area along Gerald Hewes' boundary to an open pasture with houses visible in the distance and with no control over future development in the distance (Photo 18). The Trail also winds its way through downtown Hanover across busy intersections. This was done, according to the Park Service, so that hikers could more easily resupply and so that those few hikers who walk the entire length of the AT could register at the Dartmouth Outing Club, near Main Street (Photo 5). The number of hikers who walked the whole Trail last year was less than 200. It would seem quite possible that registration points for their purposes could be established in less urbanized areas.

When proceeding through private land, there is an obvious logic in running the Trail along shared property boundaries, much as an alleyway for the visualization of the reader, When the NPS strays from this policy and cuts right through the land of a single party the reason must be extraordinary and readily apparent to the landholder, The reason given for dissecting the pasture road of Kevin Cunningham and putting his herd in jeopardy was to avoid having the Trail go along a public road for a short distance in order to re-join at a shared boundary. Public roads are inevitable in such a project as the Appalachian Trail as the route through Hanover would indicate. Yet one reason the Park Service may give for rejecting a certain route is used as a justification for supporting a route only a few miles away along the Trail.

When the NPS cannot convince a rational landowner, such as Kevin Cunningham, that having the Trail cut his farm in half is better than running along a shared boundary, then, possibly, the agency has made a mistake in its selection. What is worse, such a route may so discourage Cunningham that he may sell out entirely and relocate his farm and family. The Park Service, then, would have far more land than it needed for a Trail corridor at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This occurred with Stanley Olsen who sold the enormous amount of over 740 acres to the NIPS rather than have the Trail cut his land in two, Apparently there is little compunction against buying out smaller problems with huge monetary resources resulting in large quantities of unneeded acreage taken from local property tax rolls.

Perceptions about the role of Dartmouth College were discussed adequately in Part Three and will not be rehashed here, One comment, though, made to this researcher by an official of the Appalachian Trail Conference was that "Dartmouth acted like any other landowner." If this is true, then the awesome clout of the College in local employment and resources made it the most powerful single landowner, able to overwhelm all others in the tug and pull of Trail location.

This is the fifth report done by this author which discusses the problems encountered by inholders faced with land acquisition from the federal bureaucracy, Although the amount of acres involved, the number of inholders, and the use of condemnation here was not as great as in other locations, particularly out West, the feelings of the people are just as intense, In no location yet studied was the role of the federal government more hidden and diffuse. In no other location were the lines of authority more blurred. Responsibility was scattered and, often difficult to locate, The ultimate responsibility, though, must rest with the National Park Service. The Trail is the product of many forces, such as health and environmental, conservationist, and fiscal, By far, however, the greatest force in determining the route of the Appalachian Trail through the Hanover region seems to be the familiar power politics and institutional influence. The hiker's path has been primarily the result of political considerations, not environmental. 1


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