LANCASTER – Officers of the all-volunteer nonprofit hiking trail organization known as the Cohos Trail Association (TCTA) learned this past week that two grants had been awarded to support increasing efforts to turn the 165-mile Cohos Trail from the White Mountains to the Canadian border into a major hiking destination in the Northeast.
The New Hampshire Trails Bureau reported that TCTA had been awarded more than $27,555 in Recreational Trails Program funds to assist the group in building miles of new trails to help the association pull foot paths off roads to greatly improve the hiking experience, to help the group maintain some remote sections in Coos County, and improve aging hiking infrastructure, such as bog bridges.
Within hours, the association officers learned that the group was also the recipient of $3,280 from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, administered by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, to build and erect sign kiosks in many locations and outfit those kiosks with professional and highly visible graphics that would promote the trail and New Hampshire’s Great North Woods.
These grants come on the heels of an infusion of funds from a recent $5,000 grant from the Coos Economic Development Corporation, $17,000 from an anonymous Vermont-based donor, and the donation from the Museum of the White Mountains of a new, large log lean-to shelter to be erected along the trail in 2016.
TCTA’s President, Chad Pepau said “With these two additional grants coming to the association, 2015 is on path to be the most successful year for the Cohos Trail in terms of being able to make significant, positive changes. These changes will enhance the hiking experience tremendously.” Mr. Pepau also said “The Cohos Trail is very fortunate to have received these generous gifts as the association relies heavily upon grants and donations to accomplish a wide array of projects, annually.”
Now, with substantial resources to work with, the association plans to develop nearly five miles of all new trail in the Nash Stream Forest, greatly upgrade miles of existing hiking trail throughout the county, install long bog bridge spans in Jefferson and Pittsburg, produce wholly redesigned maps, provide world-class signage at trailheads, build a new shelter in Stark township, and set aside funds for the construction of another new shelter on the trail in 2016.
The hiking trail group will provide matches in dollars and volunteer in-kind effort to help augment the grant monies. Already the group has received offers of building material donations to further stretch the reach of the funding.
Now in its fifteenth year of existence, the Cohos Trail is increasingly seen as a potential economic driver for the county, bringing in increasing numbers of hikers and peak-baggers who wish to experience mountainous terrain without pressure from crowds of hikers on the high peaks of the White Mountains. As the trail matures and more shelters are erected along its long length, outdoors enthusiasts are finding more and more reason to explore the new terrain that the Cohos Trail offers.
The White Mountains attract some two million hiker visits per year. TCTA has been trying to lure just a few percents of that traffic farther north into central and northern Coos County. If they succeed, as they hope, their efforts could have an incremental yet substantial impact on the overall recreational profile of the county.