Subcommittee Looks at Potential Emergency Access in Musquash

A subcommittee of the Conservation Commission met with members of the Town’s Hazard Mitigation Committee to discuss installing emergency access roads in the Musquash conservation area.

The Town’s updated Hazard Mitigation Plan identifies the construction of fire lanes in the Musquash as a necessary mid-term goal.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said during the group’s first meeting on Dec. 8 that they hope to identify locations where crews could drive a pick-up truck out to the beginning of a trail, dispatch crews to someone having a medical emergency or to a fire, then get crews and the patient out quickly.

“We’re looking to cut down the time it takes to get them out from there,” he said.

While the Department has a small off-road vehicle it is able to utilize in the Musquash for small occurrences, O’Brien said they would need a pick-up to transport the larger team required for a more significant emergency.

Commissioner Mike Considine said one option is a southerly access on the Landing Trail that would provide emergency personnel access to The Landing, a clearing in the Musquash that could serve as a staging area.

“That’s the old, major logging road. From there, if you were going to get around there, it would be on the Betty Mack Loop,” he said.

“The landing is great, that’s open already,” Commissioner Deb Lievens said.

However, Lievens noted the area is very wet, and seasonally “you just can’t depend on what you’re going to find.

“We have had trails we thought were solid dry trails, and two years later we were moving them again,” she said.

The Commission also considered the possibility for an access using the power transmission lines, as well as a westerly access from Alexander Road Extension.

Considine said it may also be possible to install turnarounds at trail intersections for small emergency vehicles.

“We don’t want to build superhighways by any stretch of the imagination, we’re just trying to provide service out there if someone is injured or there is a fire,” O’Brien said.

Hazard Mitigation Committee member Al Sypek, a former Londonderry fire chief, said according to the State’s life safety statute, O’Brien can take any measures he deems appropriate to respond to an emergency in the Musquash.

“He can bulldoze acres of forest by State law to control the situation. By constructing these access lanes and providing somewhat easier access, that can be mitigated,” he said.

The Commission would not be held responsible for subsidizing the cost of the improvements – the Town would apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to complete the widening of trails.

The project, which is estimated to cost approximately $100,000, is ranked fifth of six newly identified mitigation strategies in the Town’s updated Hazard Mitigation plan, to be completed in the next five to six years.

Lievens told O’Brien and Sypek the Commission is working with New Hampshire Fish and Game to complete projects that would create new habitat for the nearly endangered New England Cottontail, some of which would require an access road in the Musquash.

Members of the Committee and the Commission discussed the potential to collaborate with the State and FEMA to secure multiple funding sources to complete a project that would satisfy the Hazard Mitigation project as well as a rabbit habitat project.

“We may be able to get something you didn’t expect that helps you, helps us, and helps the rabbits,” said Lievens, who thinks it’s very likely they will be able to identify a project that FEMA, the State and the Town could bring to fruition.

O’Brien said he plans to visit the Musquash with the Department’s small, off-road vehicle before snow falls to identify viable points of entrance and areas in the conservation area that would easily be converted into reliable access ways.

Lievens said the Commission’s subcommittee will also consult with Town Forester Charlie Moreno to determine where in the Musquash the construction of an emergency access would be most reliable and beneficial to all parties.

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