Tuesday October 5, 2010  
HINSDALE, N.H. -- After hearing of plans from Concord to potentially reduce staffing in Pisgah State Park, organizers in southwestern Cheshire County have scheduled a meeting with department leaders to review the future of New Hampshire’s largest park.
 
Concerned residents in Chesterfield, Hinsdale and Winchester have partnered with the local nonprofit Friends of Pisgah to hold a town meeting-style forum to allow local park enthusiasts an opportunity to discuss the long-term management plans of both Pisgah and Chesterfield Gorge located off Route 9.
The event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hinsdale Town Hall.
"This is an opportunity to voice your opinion to the ones who have direct input into the process," said Edwin "Smokey" Smith of Hinsdale in an e-mail. "A large turnout at this meeting shows that we do care and want our park properly managed."
 
N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald, Director Ted Austin of Parks and Recreation and administrator Ken Desmarais of the Forest Management Bureau are scheduled to attend the Hinsdale event.
 
According to Pisgah supporters, the state costs for the park in the last four years has been less than $80,000 annually. At 13,361 acres, spanning the towns of Chesterfield, Hinsdale and Winchester, advocates contend the park is a valuable asset for the region and cutting costs seems unreasonable.
 
Friends of Pisgah member Bob Miller of Chesterfield said the organization requested the commissioner return to the region (Bald appeared in Keene during a July 2009 meeting) to hear the concerns from some of the park’s most frequent users. "Things have been left up in the air (regarding the park’s management plan) and there really hasn’t been anything solidified ... there’s a number of items that need to be addressed," he said. Pisgah supporters want to maintain the volunteer-constructed visitors center and continue having a park manager to ensure the park stays in good condition, he said. Without a ranger supervising the park, more damage is expected to the trails and woodlands. Recently, half a boat, a couch and other garbage has been found in the park.

The Parks and Recreation agency came under fire last year when Pisgah supporters (among other groups around the state) criticized a 10-year development plan that called for significant financial restructuring of the park system. Within a month, the proposal was withdrawn and officials have hosted numerous meetings since summer 2009 to satisfy park advocates around the state.
 
Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.