Planning board approves draft plan for Mt. Jasper

BERLIN – The planning board gave its approval to a draft management plan for Mount Jasper that calls for protecting the special archaeological and geological values of the property while promoting its use for walking, snow-shoeing, rock climbing, and birding.

The draft proposes to close the 203-acre property to ATV use but allow continued snowmobile use on established trails.
The draft, which the board discussed at its January monthly meeting, will now be refined and developed into an ordinance. Final approval rests with the city council.
A subcommittee of the planning board has been working on a management plan for the city-owned property since 2010. Last year, Watershed to Wildlife Inc., of Whitefield, completed a management and natural resource inventory of the property, which includes the summit of the 1,584-foot mountain.
Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme told the board Mt. Jasper Committee Chair Sally Manikian put together the draft plan based on the study and public input collected by the subcommittee.
In proposing ATV use not be allowed on the property, the draft plan cited the recommendation of the Watershed to Wildlife study as well as input from the state Historic Preservation Office, White Mountain Ridge Runners snowmobile club, state Archeologist Dick Boisvert, and the public.
One major reason for the recommended ATV ban is the rhyolite formations on the property. The Abenaki people used the rhyolite approximately 9,000 years ago to make tools. The mine on the southern slope is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Collecting artifacts and mining is not allowed on the site.
In addition, the draft plan notes the large amount of sensitive wetlands and streams that exist there. It also states Mt. Jasper is a popular walking site for many residents seeking a quiet recreational experience in the city.
Planning board member Lucie Remillard, who represents the council on the board, said she agreed with the ATV ban. She said she feels ATVs would pose a safety risk to the many people who hike and walk on the property. Remillard said snowmobiles are allowed only on an existing trail system.
Laflamme noted a member of the local ATV club had requested ATVS be allowed to access the spectacular views from the summit of Mt. Jasper. She pointed out
there is ATV access to the summit of Mt. Forist, which also provides panoramic views of Berlin.
The draft plan recognizes Berlin High School is an abutter to the property and has expansion plans that include a bus garage and a wood pellet system. The school also uses the property for a number of activities including science classes and cross-country training.

The draft plan recommends the Mt. Jasper Committee continue as a subcommittee of the planning board to annually review the Mt. Jasper management plan and any proposed projects or improvements. The committee would submit an annual update to the full board and city council.
Current projects include maintenance of a walking trail network by the NH-JAG Program, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Enriched Learning Center and a snowmobile by the White Mountain RidgeRunners Snowmobile Club. There are also plans for some kiosk and informational signs.
In other business
* Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme reported Jericho Power and Alan Bouthillier have notified the city that they plan to meet with the board next month to outline a proposal to locate a small number of wind turbines on Bouthillier's property. Jericho Power is in the process of putting three 500-foot turbines on Jericho Mountain. Bouthillier owns the abutting property. Bouthillier originally opposed the Jericho Power project but withdrew his opposition when the company agreed to increase the setback of its turbines from the property line.
* Laflamme reported the state has begun work on the Route 110 bypass Phase II work. She said the contractor has performed a lot of utility and line work. Laflamme said the project will really get underway when the ground thaws this spring.