Mason commemorates trail for donor George Schwenk

  • Chris Leask presents a sign he lettered to mark the head of the George Gerhart Schwenk Memorial Trail. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • David Ruoff recalls memories of Scouting with George Schwenk at the Mason Quarry when Schwenk was his troop leader. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Cathy Schwenk expresses gratitude for the town honoring her husband George by naming a new trail for him in the Mason Quarry. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Chris Leask presents a sign he lettered to mark the head of the George Gerhart Schwenk Memorial Trail. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/20/2023 10:28:19 AM

The Mason Conservation Commission dedicated the George Gerhart Schwenk Memorial Trail, a two-mile path that travels across the Mason Quarry, during a ceremony Tuesday night in honor of the man who gifted the land to the town.

The late George Schwenk and his wife Cathy Schwenk donated the quarry and about 100 acres to the Town of Mason in 2013. The land has since been placed under a permanent easement by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

“I want to thank you all for coming this evening to share this day and this special evening with me. I’m almost speechless,” Cathy Schwenk said.

Schwenk said she and her husband had wanted to see the area preserved, particularly for the future generations of Mason.

“They are our future. Someone has to set the example. And George Schwenk and I have tried to set an example for the town to follow through, if they can do so,” she said. “But especially for the youngsters that are going to come along and be living here in 20 or 30 years, we’d like the town to remain somewhat similar to what it is today.”

Conservation Commission member Liz Fletcher recalled when George Schwenk first approached the town about donating the land.

“What an amazing gift,” Fletcher said. “We’d long dreamed of protecting this wild heart of Mason, and here was George and Cathy, fulfilling that dream.”

David Ruoff, who was Mason’s first Eagle Scout, had George Schwenk as a troop leader throughout his childhood.

“George was a very important person in my life; there was many ways in which he was kind of a surrogate dad to me,” Ruoff said. “I certainly learned a lot from him.”

Ruoff said the quarry was a large part of his memories of growing up and Scouting.

“The quarry is a special place in Mason, and I can tell you there are not too many special places left like this in the state. A lot of them are disappearing,” Ruoff said. “I just think he would be extremely grateful that the town has done this for him. I know it meant a lot to him.”

In addition to the land, Cathy Schwenk supported the inventory of the plant life not only on the quarry land, but the abutting conservation parcels. The survey identified a total of 281 species, including 25 species newly recorded in the county, four on the threatened or endangered list and one particularly rare type of orchid, the small whorled pogonia.

Selectman Charlie Moser thanked both of the Schwenks for not only their gifts of money and land to the town, but their time, noting that Cathy Schwenk served for decades as moderator, and George Schwenk as trustee of the trust funds.

“We are about the luckiest town in New Hampshire,” Moser said, when speaking of the generosity of some of its residents for preserving the town’s special places.

A group of trail volunteers consisting of Bob Larochelle, Kurt Spacht, Darrell Scott, Kathy Chapman, Miki Clements and Richard Stockdale mapped the new trail and did the clearing work to create the u-shaped trail, an offshoot to the existing Narrow Gauge Trail in the Mason Quarry. The trail can be accessed from one side on Coyne Lane and from the other at the Mason Quarry entrance from the Mason Rail Trail parking area on Scripps Lane.

“We know there is growth, and we know there is change, but if we can save some of the past, we will enlighten the future,” Schwenk said. “I thank the Conservation Commission for all the work they’ve put in over the years, all of the members have worked together as a team. And the Town of Mason works together as a  team as well. So, united, we can do much.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.

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