Fulfilling Hayashi’s dream

Last modified: 1/27/2015 7:21:29 AM
Update: Due to predictions of snow for the weekend, the hike through the former Camp Chenoa property has once again been postponed. It is now scheduled to take place Feb. 15 at 9 a.m.

Editor's note: The Harris Center has postponed the Jan. 31 hike through the former Camp Chenoa property to Feb. 8, due to expected weather conditions.

As a group of nearly 30 hikers winds through the woods, Meade Cadot of Hanock calls a halt to the procession to point out the bounding tracks of a snowshoe hare. Later, he will point out signs of a mink passing through, though the tracks are partially swept away by the wind, and more hare tracks.

The animals inhabit a tract of land formerly owned by Hiroshi Hayashi of Dublin. Hayashi was the owner and chef of Latacarta in Peterborough, and operated a cooking school, The Monadnock School for Natural Cooking and Philosophy. From 2002 to 2006, Hayashi, his staff and students oversaw food services at High Mowing School in Wilton, according to Evan Fielding, the current Food Service Director at High Mowing. Both Fielding and his wife are former students of the Monadnock School for Natural Cooking.

Hayashi had long sought to conserve the property, and last spring, nearly two years after his death at the age of 72, that dream became a reality, when the Harris Center for Conservation Education purchased the property to conserve it.

The conservation was accomplished with donations from supporters of the Harris Center Supersanctuary and the Peterborough Conservation Commission, as well as a $50,000 from the town of Peterborough through its land conservation capital reserve fund. The land is contiguous to already conserved land in Peterborough.

The farmhouse once occupied by Hayashi, where he often gave elaborate dinners, could not be saved, said Jeremy Wilson, executive director at the Harris Center. With the cost of making the building safe to inhabit in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the house has been removed from the property, as well as the barn. What could be salvaged from both properties was, said Wilson, and the frame of the old barn will be repurposed in another building.

Wilson told a gathered crowd of hikers who were about to embark on a hike through the property Sunday that the property was an important piece of conservation land for several reasons. Firstly, the land has substantial portions that are identified as the highest value in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan. Secondly, the 109 acres of the Hayashi property connects with another, already-conserved property, the U.S. Army Corps land along the Nubanusit Brook. This connects it with a network of conserved lands that stretch from the Edward MacDowell Lake in Peterborough to the northeastern shore of Highland Lake in Stoddard, a 17-mile long corridor of over 26,000 contiguous conserved acres.

Hayashi had already developed some hiking trails along the property, which also has old farm roads and paths that make for easy trail development, explained Wilson. However, since Hayashi’s death in the spring of 2012, little work has been done on the trails, leaving some of them overgrown or not well-defined. Wilson said that the Harris Center’s goal is to change that, bringing the hiking trails back up to snuff, especially where they connect with the U.S. Army Corps property, which is heavily marked with hiking trails.

“We also see tremendous opportunities for utilizing these properties for our conservation education programs,” said Wilson. “They are accessible and have diverse forest and water features.”

Camp Chenoa

The Hayashi property wasn’t the only coup for the Harris Center this year. The conservation organization also finalized the purchase of land once part of Camp Chenoa. The land will join the Hayashi property to add onto an already expansive corridor of conserved properties.

Camp Chenoa in Antrim was once a camp for Girl Scouts, but it was put up for sale in 2013 when declining enrollment made keeping the camp open an unfeasible venture. The camp was hoping to sell to someone interested in keeping the waterfront campground in operation as a camp, but the Harris Center was interested in reaching an agreement for the surrounding wooded area, according to Margaret Baker, the communications director for the Harris Center. The Harris Center was able to come to an agreement to purchase 184 acres of the undeveloped property in June.

The camp is a direct neighbor to the New Hampshire Audubon’s Willard Pond Wildlife Sancuary, and contains a 34-acre beaver pond and associated wetland stemming from Gregg Lake. There are already existing trails to the pond and to views of the Antrim Highlands will now be open to the public.

The $200,000 property was purchased with assistance from supporters of the Harris Center Supersanctuary, the town of Antrim, the New Hampshire Audubon and the members of the Gregg Lake Association.

There will be a second hike led on Jan. 31 through the former Camp Chenoa property. The hike will be led by Meade Cadot and Ben Haubrich and be a 1.5-mile hike or snowshoe trek through the property. The hike is free and open to the public. Interested parties should meet at the trail head on Gregg Lake Road at 9 a.m. The hikers will return by noon.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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