New hiking trail in Sunapee honors Herbert Welsh

Through the efforts of Herbert Welsh (1851-1941) both the Mount Sunapee Park lands and the Dewey Woods were conserved for the public. A new trail in the Dewey Woods in Sunapee honors him and provides access to the south side of Rogers Brook Marsh and to the top of Garnet Hill.

Sunapee, N.H. – A new trail in the Dewey Woods in Sunapee honors a pioneer in land conservation: Herbert Welsh (1851-1941). Welsh’s activism and leadership in land protection helped define the regional landscape including treasured acres in Sunapee.

Decades ago Welsh worked to protect the highlands now part of the Mount Sunapee State Park and to secure the Dewey Woods, now Town Forest managed by the Sunapee Conservation Commission.

The Dewey Woods was deeded to the Town of Sunapee in 1928 to “hold, use and manage the said premises for the public use and benefit as a public park and forest reserve forever.”

Barbara Chalmers, Sunapee, suggested the Herbert Welsh trail to the local conservation commission. This was a year ago, and the commission welcomed the idea with enthusiasm.

The walking crusader Herbert Welsh (1851-1941). Image from his book The New Gentleman of the Road, which describes his 450-mile treks from Philadelphia to Sunapee.

“The Welsh Trail idea started back in spring 2011 with the  Mount Sunapee Centennial celebration planning,” said Chalmers, who volunteered to research Herbert Welsh.

“What I discovered… amazed me. He was so ahead of his time. His societal concerns became his life’s work: economic and social justice for the American Indian,  fighting corruption in government and the civil service, and land preservation for future generations.  Welsh not only led the effort to conserve land on Mount Sunapee, but he was responsible for conserving Dewey Woods too.”

“During the Centennial celebration group hike up Mount Sunapee, the morning before Tropical Storm Irene hit, there was discussion of rejuvenating the old trail we were on from the campground to the summit and getting it named the Herbert Welsh trail,” Chalmers said.

“That got me thinking I could do something similar at the Dewey Woods. It seemed like Herbert Welsh was an unsung Sunapee hero.”

Chalmers proposed to the conservation commission a volunteer effort that would layout, cut and mark a hiking trail from the existing trail network at the Dewey Woods to the top of Garnet Hill.

In the 1900s – 1920s, this was a popular hiking destination with its once fabulous views of the lake and Mount Sunapee, Chalmers noted. There are many old penny postcards that depict the views from Garnet Hill.

In June 2012, members of the conservation commission hiked the proposed trail route, made a few adjustments and gave Chalmers the go-head.

In July, Chalmers and three other volunteers, including Herbert Welsh’s great grandson and his great-great grandson, cut the trail, which provides access to the south side of Rogers Brook Marsh and to the top of Garnet Hill.

Trail head signs, also made by Chalmers, help explain Welsh’s remarkable legacy:

Herbert Welsh (1851-1941) dedicated his life to art, land conservation and humanitarian causes.  His impact on the Sunapee area remains today.

In 1882, after a visit to the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation, Herbert founded the Indian Rights Association, a national organization to promote fair treatment and education for the American Indian which he led for 40 years.

In 1893, Herbert built a summer cottage on the west shore of Sunapee Harbor. An avid outdoorsman, for many years in late spring, he walked 400 miles from home in Philadelphia to Sunapee and then back again in the fall.

In 1909, Herbert’s concern about clear cutting on Mt Sunapee and the loss of its old growth forest spurred him to begin a fund raising campaign to conserve the upper mountain slopes for future generations. In less than 2 years, Welsh had raised the funds to buy 656 acres and created the Sunapee Reservation in association with the Society for Protection of NH Forests (SPNHF), which in 1948 became Mt Sunapee State Park.

Herbert Welsh founded and led the Sunapee Chapter of SPNHF, a position he held for 20 years. In 1925, Dewey family land north of the Harbor was to be sold and logged.  Herbert mobilized the Sunapee Chapter to raise funds to conserve the land and with $2,000 voted by the Town of Sunapee, the Dewey Woods was purchased in 1928. These acres are part of the public lands managed by the Sunapee Conservation Commission.

This trail honors the memory of Herbert Welsh, Sunapee’s early leader in land conservation efforts.

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