The Londonderry Conservation Commission, responding to a request from a local family for permission to take part in back country camping in the Musquash Conservation Area, addressed the issues to be considered if a campground were to be created.
At its Tuesday, June 28 meeting, the Commission noted that limited permits for an occasional Boy Scout campout have been granted, but camping in the Musquash is a non-permitted use, allowed only by permit.
The Musquash Conservation Area is a 1,000-plus-acre recreation area with a marked trail system that includes 20-plus miles of managed trails. The area is supervised by the Conservation Commission and maintained by Londonderry Trailways. Permitted uses include hiking, trail biking, snowmobiling, wildlife observation, hunting, horseback riding, and cross country skiing. Camping and motorized vehicles are by permit only.
The area was created in 1979 with the stated purpose of encouraging residents to take advantage of the wildlife habitat, care and protection of that habitat and forest management, and development of recreational opportunities.
Commission member Mike Byerly pointed out that allowing camping or creating a campground area would meet the commission’s goal of encouraging people to take advantage of the recreation land available to them. He referenced the policy developed by the Commission on camping that states “Camping on conservation land is not customarily permitted. Recognized nonprofit organizations may seek authorization from the Londonderry Conservation Commission to use the land for camping. The Conservation Commission will review each request on a case by case basis. If approved, the Conservation Commission will stipulate in each instance that the requisite fire and/or vehicle permits be obtained.”
Byerly had put together elements of a proposed new policy that included allowing camping for individuals and groups in the Musquash only, with a Conservation Commission permit required. Under that proposal, campers must be 21 years old or above and must be Londonderry residents. In addition, the person pulling the permit must be one of the campers; no campfires or camp stoves would be allowed; human waste must be buried; camping must be at least 200 feet from water; and camping would require a “carry in, carry out” trash policy.
He raised the question as to whether it would be better to allow camping at specific campsite locations or allow camping throughout the Musquash.
The commission discussed his proposal and the general sense was that a camp stove should be allowed but not an open fire. However, even a camp stove would require a permit from the Londonderry Fire Department.
The other area of agreement was that it would be better, if they decided to allow camping in the Musquash, to set specific camping areas rather than allow a choice.
Member Mike Speltz made a point that gave everyone pause, that once a specific site is established for camping, it would become a potential party spot.
The members decided to resurrect material on the need for establishing a ranger position and forward that to Town Manager Kevin Smith for consideration prior to budget season. The members wanted this brought to the next meeting as well for them to consider again.
They agreed to wait for any action on developing a camping area in the Musquash until the Stantec report is in. This report from the Town engineers will provide information on four properties in the area and how they could be improved to offer more recreational opportunities, and at what cost.
In addition, the Commission said it would need input from both the Londonderry Fire and Police Departments regarding the possibility of developing a camping area in the Musquash, and decided that regardless of what was decided, a trial period approach should be taken.