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Dixville Peaks Snowmobile Trail Not Open This Season

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December 22, 2011 - The two articles below were cut and pasted from the December 21, 2011 edition of the COLEBROOK SENTINEL NEWSPAPER. See the original articles at COLBSENT.COM.

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Dixville Peaks Snowmobile Trail Not Open This Season

By Claire Lynch

Snowmobilers expecting to scale the Dixville Peaks Trail #134 will have to wait until next winter, as construction on the windmill project caused a delay in the trail's reroute.

"The windmill project reroute hasn't been completed as promised," said Colebrook Ski-Bees president Clay Hinds. "The only advice I can give to the riders is just to be wary. If the trail is closed, it's because of a danger. There is an issue where blasting has occurred."

The club will continue to groom more than 120 miles of trail in the Colebrook, Stewartstown, Columbia and Dixville areas, and signs will be in place showing that the Dixville Peak trail is closed for now.

"We are working with the Bureau of Trails to see what we can do," Mr. Hinds said. "Unfortunately it's been put off for different reasons. Now the season is upon us and although the contractor is ready to go, it's kind of too late. We hope next year that that trail will be put through and it will be super."

Julie Smith-Galvin, a spokes-man for wind park owner Brookfield Renewable Power, issued a statement by e-mail concerning the trail issue. "The Dixville Peak snowmobile trail will be closed this winter due to the need to reroute the trail around newly installed wind turbines at the Granite Reliable Wind Project," the statement reads. "Preliminary construction activity on the reroute was recently halted due to weather conditions and the desire to keep other adjacent snowmobile routes open for the public's enjoyment. To continue construction at this time would have resulted in other trail closures."

Everything is in place for construction on the Dixville Peak trail to resume by late spring, and to be completed for the 2012-13 winter season, she explained. She said the N.H. Bureau of Trails, the Umbagog Snowmobile Association and wind project representatives are collaborating on the trail reroute and are committed to its completion. "We thank the public for your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause for riding this season," she said.

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Rail-Trail Work

On Corridor 3A from Colebrook to Stewartstown, the N.H. Department of Transportation is working to finish removing the rails from the railroad bed. Rails have been removed from Bridge Street up to the area behind J.K. Lynch Disposal in Colebrook. On the northern end, work continues southward from Tallmage Plumbing Heating in Stewartstown, Mr. Hinds explained.

"We are hoping to have all the rails pulled this year," he said. "Riders need to pay attention to the signage indicating that there are some rails there, as there is an inherit danger. I don't know if they are going to get it finished, as it is a slow process."

More information and club meeting times can be found on the Ski-Bees' Web site, www.colebrookski-bees.com.

(Issue of December 21, 2011)

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Temporary Snowmobile Corridor Will Be in Place on Dixville Peak

December 21, 2011

by Edith Tucker

The Berlin Reporter

BERLIN — The county commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday was enlivened by “a boys will be boys” dustup between county treasurer Fred King of Colebrook, who has served as both a state senator and state representative, and chairman Burnham “Bing” Judd of the board of county commissioners.

King reported to the three-man board that he and county administrator Sue Collins had met with Granite Reliable Power’s man-onthe-ground Pip Decker, whose job has wound down leaving him looking for work. Decker opened GRP’s office in Lancaster in 2007 when it was only a gleam in the eye of Noble Environmental Power of Essex, Conn.

Decker introduced King and Collins to Paul Brenton, who works in Brookfield Power’s U. S. headquarters in Marlborough, Mass. He is now Coös County’s contact, and King reported that Brenton had asked that the county send an invoice annually for the $495,000 PILT payment as called for under the county’s agreement. The first invoice will be for $420,000, since in 2008 Noble paid a $75,000 signing advance.

King said he’d also discussed with Brenton the concerns raised by Rick Tillotson of Colebrook and others about an unforeseen gap in the snowmobile corridor that runs from south of Dixville to Colebrook over Dixville Peak on Bayroot LLC timberlands, managed by Wagner Woodlands. It had to be closed because of the presence of the 400-plus-foot-high Vestas wind towers that could throw ice off their enormous blades, and the work to build a new trail before the season opened could not be done.

The winter winds are fierce in that location, and the blades on Tower 1, the most northerly, could not be installed until 3 one early morning, King said he was told.

A temporary trail will be cobbled together on existing logging trails for use this winter by two snowmobile clubs: Umbagog Snowmobile and Colebrook Ski-Bees.

After this winter is over, logging and excavation contractor Allan Bouthillier of A.B. Logging of Lancaster will build a new trail that requires some blasting after winter is over. Brookfield plans to put in a much better trail, King said.

Judd pointed out angrily that the county commissioners, who act as the selectmen in the Unincorporated Places such as Dixville, should have been involved in this update and discussion. “I would have liked to have talked with Brenton directly myself,” Judd exploded, shaking his head slowly from side to side.

King tired to explain away the “turf issue” by saying that he had discussed the issue because Rick Tillotson had mentioned at the Nov. 10 meeting of the Planning Board for the Unincorporated Places — at which Judd was not present — that the re-location of the snowmobile corridor might not be ready to open through the GRP project area this winter.

Judd and King continued to sputter at one another before the chairman finally concluded he was glad that snowmobilers would be able to reach Colebrook.

Apparently there is also an alternate route from the Log Haven restaurant in Millsfield over Kelsey Notch to Columbia and then into Colebrook and north to Pittsburg. “It’s too bad after the whole project has gone so smoothly and with so many local contractors hired that this happened at the end,” King said.

The discussion of the GRP wind farm then turned to whether or not the commissioners would open up the PILT agreement to seek additional payments. The consensus was “no.” They said that they had leaned heavily on an expert at the state Department of Revenue Administration to come up with the wind farm’s value and were satisfied that the agreement was a good one.

Commissioner Paul Grenier of Berlin said that utility expert George “Skip” Sansoucy of Lancaster had warned him than Brookfield, a Canadian company, might seek to reduce its tax payments in Coös County.

The commissioners also discussed the plans of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) to acquire a conservation easement restricting development on 5,800 acres surrounding The Balsams, nearly all of which would kept as a “working forest.” Although King grumbled that more land in Coös County is being “locked up,” Judd said that SPNHF does a good job managing its lands.

His only complaint, he said, is that the roads up into the 2,121-acre Washburn Family Forest, north of Colebrook, are only open to those on foot.

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