Starting with a simple idea

Barbara Richter, NH Association of Conservation Commissions

Chesterfield Conservation Commission started with a simple idea: to connect existing conservation lands into a wildlife corridor, and ended up creating a 50-mile trail network.

The Chesterfield Conservation Commission had a vision 30 years ago, to establish a greenway from Mt Wantastiquet in Hinsdale to the Horatio Colony Preserve in Keene, anchored by a trail. Partnership between the Chesterfield Conservation Commission and the Friends of Pisgah Park further developed the idea of connecting the Wantastiquet-Monadnock Greenway (WMG) as a protected wildlife corridor.  This idea eventually grew into a 50-mile hiking trail extending from Brattleboro, VT to Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH.  The project expanded with assistance from the Monadnock Conservancy, and additional parcels were protected to ensure the wildlife habitat would remain in perpetuity along the greenway. Over the years, the project grew and more partners joined the effort to protect this unique unfragmented forest containing NH Wildlife Action Plan highest ranked habitat.

The western point of the wildlife corridor begins at the Connecticut River in Mt. Wantastiquet State Forest, and passes through numerous conservation lands. The western section of the trail is almost totally within NH Wildlife Action Plan highest ranked wildlife habitat and contains the peaceful and remote Pisgah State Park and Horatio Colony Preserve. Among the other features of the Wantastiquet Monadnock Trail are its diverse and lengthy mountainous terrain sandwiched around the rail line through the center of the city of Keene. There is an old mill town feel along the rail line from Keene to Troy, followed by the well-known and spectacular scenery in the region leading up to and on top of Mt. Monadnock.  Among the well-known public lands along the trail are the Mt. Wantastiquet, Bear Mt., Pisgah and Mt. Monadnock State Parks, the Forest Society’s Madame Sherri Forest, the Horatio Colony Preserve and Gap Mountain Preserves, and the Cheshire Rail Trail.

trail map

The 50 mile Wantastiquet-Monadnock Hiking Trail (WMT) can now be hiked over its whole length from Brattleboro to Mt. Monadnock

The creation of the trail was made possible by the dedicated members of the Chesterfield Conservation Commission and Friends of Pisgah Park.  The completion of the trail involved many groups and volunteers and eventually became known as the Wantastiquiet-Monadnock Trail Coalition.  The Coalition oversees the trail, and now includes the Forest Society; the State of New Hampshire; the Chesterfield, Troy, Hinsdale and Winchester Conservation Commissions; the Swanzey Rail Trail Advisory Committee; Antioch New England; Colony Memorial Trust; City of Keene Parks and Rec. Dept.; the Monadnock Conservancy; Pathways for Keene and the Southwest Regional Planning Commission. The combined effort of the conservation commissions, state agencies, non-profits and volunteers resulted in the protection of more than 3,000 acres in Southwest NH and a 50-mile hiking trail.

This trail, now extending from Brattleboro to Mt. Monadnock, is the culmination of 25 years of planning, negotiations and trail building.  It shows how groups of determined environmentalists, conservation commissions and private non-profits, together with the enlightened state programs of NH Fish & Game and the UNH Extension, can envision a goal and collaborate with partners to build connections that protect a truly unique landscape.

You can find maps of the trail on the Forest Society’s website.