Herbert Welsh: “Save Mount Sunapee for all people to all time!”
Herbert Welsh (1851-1941) was an political reformist, an artist, humanitarian, Indian Rights activist AND in many ways the father of land conservation on Mount Sunapee.
In the early 1900s, Welsh led the effort to protect land on Mount Sunapee for public use. At the time, from 1906-1909, extensive clear-cut logging was underway on the mountain’s north face.
“It seemed clear to Welsh and many of his [Sunapee] neighbors that the beauty of Mt. Sunapee was being ruined and its primeval forest and rare plants were in danger of disappearing…. He was determined to put a stop to the destruction.” – SooNipi Magazine, Summer 2004 – Download/read: Herbert Welsh, SooNipi 2004 (pdf 492KB) – “Herbert Welsh: Walking Crusader” by Shelly Candidus
The unspoiled natural environmental inspired and moved Welsh into action.
It was earlier, in 1909 while summering in Sunapee, Welsh became alarmed about what was happening on Mount Sunapee. Paper companies controlled a greater part of the mountain and they were clear-cutting and harvesting lumber leaving a growing bald spot pocked by stumps and slash— destruction that Welsh could observe from his lakeside home. Cutting was planned that would leave the mountain bare.
Welsh went into action. Welsh’s first effort, part of his campaign “to save Mount Sunapee for all people to all time,” raised $8,000 and with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests purchased from the paper companies 656 acres of land and timber rights on Mount Sunapee’s northern slopes, including the summit and Lake Solitude. His passion about protecting the mountain’s natural environment is detailed in his writings including “Redemption of Mount Sunapee,” which he penned while at his Sunapee home.
The 1911 purchase on Mount Sunapee marked the Society’s first reservation. The campaign to protect Mount Sunapee continued with the acquisition of more conservation land, land to be open to all people for outdoor “recreation and health.” From 1922 to 1937, the Society purchased several more parcels on the mountain. In 1948 after acquiring 1,116 acres on Mount Sunapee, the Society transferred their holdings to the state of New Hampshire for a state park.
Welsh served the Society as a Vice-President At Large and as President of the Sunapee Chapter, from its formation in 1912 to at least 1934.
If we saved Mount Sunapee we would indeed be doing this, but we would also be doing something higher and nobler than acting for our own protection; we would be helping to affect our part of the great national work of forest conservation. — Herbert Welsh in “Redemption of Mount Sunapee”
1909 – 1911– Herbert Welsh leads a successful educational and fund-raising campaign to protect Mount Sunapee after he discovers large paper companies intend to clear the mountain’s steep slopes and peak. He enlists the help of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
1911 – The Forest Society acquires 656 acres on Mount Sunapee, the Society’s first reservation, which is followed by additional purchases.
1915 – The Society’s Sunapee Chapter, under Welsh’s leadership, publishes The Manual of Mount Sunapee. It details the mountain’s geological history, flora, birds and ferns.
1930’s – The Newport Ski Club cuts alpine trails on Mount Sunapee.
1948 – The Forest Society transfers 1,116 acres on Mount Sunapee to the state of New Hampshire and, in December, the Mount Sunapee Ski Area opens at Mount Sunapee State Park.