Going by the Wayside

I headed west on Rt. 9 to begin my tour of Chesterfield. I had several places on my list, places I didn’t want to miss. The first one I came to was Chesterfield Gorge State Wayside – A Geological Park. I have driven Rt. 9 from Peterborough to Vermont more times than I can count and I always said “Someday, I’ll stop there and check it out” But, I was always on my way somewhere else and never stopped. My impending tour of Chesterfield left me with no excuse. Today was as good a time as any.  The parking lot at the Wayside also serves as a designated “Park and Ride” . The first thing I noticed was a paper sign near the road…

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“This park maintained by volunteers”   WHAT? Isn’t this a State Wayside? Why is it being maintained by volunteers? I pulled into the parking lot and one of the first things I noticed was how clean and well kept it was. The picnic tables looked brand new and freshly painted. The grounds were mowed with no litter strewn about. Must be a great place! As  I got out of the jeep, I grabbed my camera gear, some water and soaked myself with bug spray (if there is a single mosquitos around, it will find me!) I headed towards the information kiosk to check out the info. But what I noticed first is that the bathrooms were boarded shut and the visitor’s center was also closed…

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I thought, well, that’s odd. The kiosk had information about the gorge, it’s history and formation, but it was in a sad state. As I started down the trail, I saw a gentleman. He didn’t look like he was there to enjoy a morning of hiking in the gorge. He had a hammer in his hand. As I was about to pass him, I said good morning. He smiled and returned the greeting. He commented on my camera and I never pass up an opportunity to talk about photography and this blog. He introduced himself as one of the volunteers. Naturally, I asked why was there a need for volunteers…Aren’t my tax dollars helping to fund our parks and recreation areas? The story he told me was shocking to say the least. For undisclosed reasons, the State of NH has given up on Chesterfield Gorge State Wayside. Perhaps it is lack of funds or lack of interest (by the State, certainly not the visitors and towns people) whatever the reason, the visitor’s center stopped being manned in 2004, mowing the grounds became a once or twice a year venture and the bathrooms were closed somewhere around 2008.

As with any abandon piece of property, bad things started happening. It became a dumping ground for litter, an easy place to vandalize, a place for less savory characters to congregate…in other words it went to hell. Pardon my language, but this makes me so mad!!! Police patrols became a regular occurrence to try to curb the downhill slide. But the trail went unmaintained, the lower bridge that washed away in the flood remained unrepaired, the grounds went unmowed and the litter began to pile up like a transfer station. One of the things that makes this so bad is that this is the first “Wayside” that people traveling east from Vermont see. Is this how we want to introduce New Hampshire to visitors and tourists? Luckily, a group of volunteers got together and formed Friends of Chesterfield Gorge. Because the wayside is state property, no maintenance or repairs could be made without state approval (they couldn’t even mower the grounds). So began the arduous task of getting approval. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Wouldn’t the state be happy that someone cared!?!?!? Not so! Phone calls were made, emails and letters were written, pleas were made….months went by. Finally, a response was received. Go ahead and mow, clear the trails if you want, more months passed before they were given permission to replace the washed out bridge. Friends of Pisgah provided timbers for the new bridge, the Chesterfield Conservation Commission provided new picnic tables, Stebbins Painting provided paint for the picnic table area, CHESCO provided volunteers to help paint the tables and members have personally funded the rest. Chesterfield Conservation Commission obtained a grant to fund a new kiosk that will hopefully appear in the near future. They’ve had several offers of support from some other local entities but are waiting for until the state reorganizes their Park management program before they raise more funds and embark on more ambitious projects.

North Ridge Mountain Guides have begun teaching a waterfall rappelling course for beginners at the Chesterfield Gorge. So little by little, The Chesterfield Gorge State Wayside has come back to life. I would personally like to thank all of the volunteers. My tour of Chesterfield would have been incomplete without all of the work you’re doing. I might have never had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the gorge. Volunteers are still needed and there is still a lot of work to do – getting permission to reopen the bathrooms would be great (hint, hint to the State of NH). Before I get on with the photos I took, I would like to ask every reader to share this with someone. If enough of us get together, the beautiful place will not “Go by the wayside!” You can contact the friends at FriendsofChesterfieldGorge@gmail.com

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I love his expression!

I love his expression!

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Like all the “cool kids” I took my shoes off and enjoyed the chilly waters

Thanks you to everyone the made the new lower bridge possible!

Thanks you to everyone the made the new lower bridge possible!

I’m hoping to go back to Chesterfield over the weekend to continue my tour, but I felt this story needed to be told!

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13 Comments on “Going by the Wayside”

  1. Martha Schaefer August 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    as always, your photos inspire. I will repost and thank you for breaking your routine of weekly posts for this very important cause…

    • Touring NH August 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Thank you for reposting! It is a very important cause. It is such a beautiful place!

  2. Carol Menard August 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Great job, Laura!

    • Touring NH August 24, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Thank you Carol! Easy to do a good job when a place is that beautiful and the volunteers are that dedicated!

  3. Cornelia Jenness August 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    Thank you for your powerful post! Your photographs are beautiful and show off “our” special place…and several of her special visitors.
    A friend of Chesterfield Gorge

    • Touring NH August 24, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      You’re welcome! I look forward to many more visits there, thanks to all of the dedication and hard working volunteers!

  4. New Hampshire Garden Solutions August 24, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    I remember when it closed and it didn’t take long to start looking seedy. I was surprised what a good job the friends had done last weekend when I was there. There was an article in the Keene Sentinel just a while ago about the group and what they were doing.
    You certainly got some better pictures than I did!

    • Touring NH August 24, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      The friends have done an amazing job! Hopefully more people will join the cause and it will never again face going by the wayside!

  5. Ellen Kolb August 24, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    The more you travel to state recreational properties, the more you’ll appreciate volunteers. The NH park system is set up under the state budget to be “self-sustaining,” but entry fees don’t come close to covering costs. I’m glad to know Chesterfield is being cared for by a good group of volunteers.

    • Touring NH August 24, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      I think it is sad that the NH park system isn’t better funded. The recreational opportunities are one of the things that people travel here for. The state benefits from these visitors, in every way, from the fuel they purchase to the meals the eat, to the money they spend on lodging. The volunteers are a great asset but the state makes them jump through so many hoops to do even the simplest of repairs and maintenance, if the volunteers weren’t so dedicated, they would throw up their hands in frustration. I’m very much hoping that this post will help bring to light the problems they are facing.

  6. Erco Travels August 26, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    Looks a wonderful tour! thanks for sharing with us through this post and lovely picture.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Chesterfield | Touring NH - August 26, 2013

    […] I hiked Chesterfield Gorge and I was amazed how quiet it was given that the parking area is on the side of Rt.9 For those of you that follow my blog, you’ll probably have seen the post I wrote specifically about the gorge – Going by the Wayside […]

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