PLYMOUTH, N.H.– January, 1914. In Detroit, Henry Ford started using the assembly line for producing the Model T automobile, forever changing the paradigm in manufacturing; the city of Beverly Hills, Calif. was incorporated; and the first steamboat passed through the Panama Canal. On the western slopes of the White Mountains, the small village of Benton was in the midst of a typical New England winter; cold temperatures and plenty of snow. But a seemingly routine event that month eventually would launch one of America’s best-loved and most popular outdoor recreational destinations; the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF).
How did it happen? A lumber baron named E. Bertram Pike sold 7,000 acres of land to the U.S. government at the then-market price of $13.25 per acre. That parcel was known as the White Mountain Forest Reserve; President Woodrow Wilson formally established the WMNF in 1918 based on the Weeks Act approved by Congress in 1911.
Today, the WMNF has grown to 800,000 acres and attracts nearly six million visitors annually, enjoying hiking, camping and skiing and bringing millions of dollars into the state’s economy.
Plymouth State University hosted a celebration event January 9 marking the 100th anniversary of the Pike purchase. Officials from PSU, the U.S. Forest Service, representatives from Congresswoman Annie Kuster, U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture spoke about the importance of the WMNF and the milestone anniversary of the first land purchase. Colleen Mainville of the U.S. Forest Service noted the anniversary recognizes the importance of the Forest’s positive effect on the region.
“The White Mountain National Forest is a much loved piece of public land and people are eager to express their appreciation for this wonderful resource,” Mainville said.
“We are fortunate to have such wonderful partners such as PSU, along with many others, to help us celebrate this important milestone in the history of the White Mountain National Forest.”
Plymouth State University’s Museum of the White Mountains founding director Catherine Amidon said the museum is a new entity bringing together groups who support the White Mountain National Forest.
“The fact that there’s now an institution devoted to celebrating the history and cultural legacy of the region allows us to bring greater attention to it,” said Amidon.
A petition was circulated at the event requesting a New Hampshire historical marker be erected at the Benton site to commemorate the establishment of the WMNF. Retired U.S. Forest Service official Dave Govatski said the marker is important because the White Mountain National Forest is one of the state’s most treasured resources.
“It’s the crown jewel of New Hampshire,” said Govatski. “There’s nothing more exciting in New Hampshire than the White Mountains; people from all over the world come here for recreation and to view the scenery and it’s an economic engine for the state too.”
The Division of Historical Resources will review the request for the historical marker and make a recommendation to the legislature. The marker would be placed on Route 25 in Benton adjacent to the Oliverian Brook reservoir.
For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or firstname.lastname@example.org