Press release courtesy of Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire. Thanks to Stefanie Thornton, Bonnie Dodge, Virginia Long and the Forest Society for these photos of Birch Ridge.

A holiday gift arrived early for those who love Birch Ridge and Merrymeeting Lake. The gift: news that the Partnership for Birch Ridge has secured the necessary funding needed to acquire, conserve, and steward the 2,000-acre Birch Ridge Community Forest in New Durham!

“The proposed Birch Ridge Community Forest is a gift for current and future generations,” notes Brian Hart, Executive Director of Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire (SELT). SELT, along with MMRG and the Merrymeeting Lake Association, formed the Partnership for Birch Ridge Community Forest and worked collectively throughout the summer to solicit public funding and donations from private community members. With a strong show of financial support, the Partnership was able to secure the matching grant from LCHIP.

The capstone funds toward this $2,950,000 effort were received with a $350,000 matching grant from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and a grant from the NH Department of Environmental Service’s Aquatic Resources Mitigation Fund, both awarded in early December.

William Bassett, President of the Merrymeeting Lake Association, acknowledged the community support, “This is a remarkable accomplishment completed in just seven months – made possible by the leadership and generosity of private donors who stepped up during the summer and fall to make gifts and pledges for the vision of the Birch Ridge Community Forest. Those gifts and pledges demonstrated the significance of this land and helped secure grants from state and federal agencies for the remaining funds.”

With funding now secured, The Partnership for Birch Ridge Community Forest will work to complete the due diligence necessary to acquire the property in 2019 and prepare for its future as a community forest.

To that end, SELT has hired the surveying firm of Eric C. Mitchell & Associates to complete the full property boundary survey, including any of the rights of way strips that extend to adjacent public roads like South Shore Road. The closing on the property is expected to take place by the end of June 2019.

While the survey work is just getting started, the work to get the community involved is already underway.

In fact, a visioning session was held in November to gain valuable insight towards the community’s collective goals for the forest. More than 70 attendees attended and shared their ideas, goals, and hopes for the Community Forest. Paper surveys were also sent to all residents and property owners in New Durham asking for their responses to 10 questions. Their responses about trails, recreational uses, and management priorities will help the Birch Ridge Steering Committee develop the management plan for the soon-to-be Community Forest.

As this project is all about community, Patti Burns, Executive Director of Moose Mountains Regional Greenways, wants people to get to know this gem of a property. “We really want the community to learn about and love the Birch Ridge Community Forest. That’s why we are working with our partners to host field trips and activities to get to know Birch. Ridge this winter.” A winter snowshoe field trip on Birch Ridge is scheduled for February 2 from 9:00 to 11:00 AM. Advanced registration is required at

Learn more about the Birch Ridge Community Forest at