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Connecticut River
Recreation Management Plan
Riverwide Overview of recreation issues and opportunities for the entire Connecticut River in New Hampshire and Vermont, with summaries of the Subcommittee Region Recreation Plans

A paddler admires a view of the Percy Peaks from the Connecticut River in Stratford.

Subcommittee Region Recreation Plans

CRJC's five local river subcommittees have completed a major update of their recreation plan for the river region. Their complete findings, including an inventory of recreational features and their many recommendations, are posted here, following a list of their top ten recreation priorities.

Headwaters ~ Riverbend ~ Upper Valley ~ Mt. Ascutney Region ~ Wantastiquet Region

 Headwaters Region
(Pittsburg to Maidstone/Northumberland)

1. Recognize landowners for keeping their land open to the public.

  • Educate landowners about the benefits of leaving land open to the public and the liability protections offered by existing laws; educate landowners about the 20% recreational adjustment under the Current Use program in NH.
  • Snowmobile and ATV clubs should consider ways to acknowledge and thank landowners who allow trails on their land, continue to educate riders to show courtesy to landowners and other users, and stay off trails when conditions are poor.
  • Encourage landowners who allow public access to their property to indicate acceptable uses.

2. Encourage protection of open space for public recreation and scenic views.

  • towns should take advantage of opportunities to conserve riverfront land for public access, trails, birding, or other recreation.
  • The Byway Council and the Nulhegan Gateway Association should encourage protection of scenic views of the river and of sensitive recreational features, to help avoid problems with overuse by tourists.
  • Regional planning commissions should inventory scenic views along the river corridor and the Connecticut River Byway.
  • Land conservation organizations should help protect scenic views and open space, especially along the river, providing public recreation access for birding, car-top boats, or trails.
  • New Hampshire should reinstate funding for LCHIP, which can provide funds to conserve open space for public recreation.

3. Encourage limited new car-top boat access.

  • State transportation agencies should complete a new public fishing and car-top boat access on town-owned land on the NH side of the Stratford-Maidstone Bridge in cooperation with the Town of Stratford, and identify a local caretaker group.
  • State transportation agencies should continue to assist towns in establishing and maintaining access to the river where federal transportation funds are used.
  • State fish and game/wildlife agencies should support and assist towns in providing more car-top boat access for canoes and other small craft, including between the Stratford-Maidstone Bridge and Guildhall.
  • PSNH should provide a safe portage around the Canaan Dam at Beecher Falls.
  • NH Fish & Game should repair erosion at its cartop boat access north of Colebrook.

4. Monitor water quality.

  • NH DES should monitor and report on water quality, to ensure that the river is safe for swimming.

5. Protect riparian buffers.

  • Landowners should leave a thick riparian buffer of native vegetation on their riverbanks to minimize the chance of erosion.
  • Towns should take advantage of opportunities to conserve riverfront land.

6. Capitalize on the scenic value of local rail lines.

  • The Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council and Nulhegan Gateway Association should encourage an excursion train along the river.
  • State transportation agencies should ensure that deteriorating rail cars are not stored within view of the river or of Routes 3 or 102.

7. Educate visitors on respect for private land.

  • The Scenic Byway Council, Nulhegan Gateway Association, snowmobile and ATV clubs, hiking groups, bicycle clubs, and other recreation groups can provide monitoring, and educate visiting and resident recreationists on the respectful use of private land to help prevent unwanted trespassing and littering.
  • Fishermen should carry out what they carry in to the riverbank and avoid littering.
  • Hunters should ask permission to hunt on private land that is not posted.
  • Boaters should use designated public access to reach the river, rather than crossing private land, avoid littering at access sites and along the riverbank, and participate in volunteer cleanups.

8. Encourage non-motorized boating.

  • NH Department of Safety should designate the Connecticut River from Murphy Dam to the Upper Ammonoosuc River for non-motorized boats and small boats powered with electric motors, with the exception of emergency access by authorized officials.
  • NH Department of Safety should continue to inform boaters of the law on non-motorized boating on the natural segment.
  • NH Department of Safety should increase enforcement of existing boating laws, to prevent boating conflicts and minimize boat wake-induced riverbank erosion.

9. Provide more primitive camping opportunities.

  • Parks and recreation agencies should help the Nulhegan Gateway Association, recreation groups, and local volunteers to establish and coordinate a new water trail of dispersed primitive canoe campsites in the region to help prevent trespassing and disperse camping impacts, and identify potential canoe campsite locations that are not sensitive ecologically or archeologically.
  • Towns should encourage development of primitive commercial campgrounds in a way that retains the river's natural character.

10. Address the growing problem of ATVs.

  • The State of NH should discourage expanded ATV use in the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Forest and in the river corridor; the need will be filled by a new area in the Androscoggin watershed nearby.
  • States should ensure that the registration fee for ATVs is large enough to provide funds for law enforcement and trail construction, and dedicate part of the fee to a landowner restitution fund.
  • NH Fish and Game should propose a fine schedule for ATV violations including meaningful penalties for eluding an officer. Enlist and train ATV club members to assist with enforcement.
  • States should promote club management of ATV activities similar to that of snowmobile clubs, including education and training.
  • States should require mandatory personal injury insurance for recreational ATV riders.
  • ATV trails should be located only where water stays on site and trail erosion cannot contribute to water quality degradation.

These recommendations are also priorities for the Headwaters Subcommittee:

  • Provide more hiking trails and options for low-impact, non-motorized recreation, including expansion of the Connecticut River Birding Trail and the Heritage Trail into the Headwaters region.
  • Reduce mercury pollution of the Connecticut River and its tributaries.
  • Repeat the 2000 fish tissue toxin study with a larger sample size in the Headwaters region.

Headwaters Recreation Plan Executive Summary
Headwaters Recreation Plan
Full Text
Appendix A -
Summary of Recommendations
Appendix B -
Progress to Date
Headwaters Region
River Recreation Maps

More on the Headwaters Subcommittee

Riverbend Region
(Guildhall/Lancaster to Ryegate/Haverhill)

1. Reduce mercury contamination in the Connecticut River system.

  • Congress should take action to reduce the amount of air-borne mercury delivered to the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Vermont and New Hampshire legislatures should urge Congress to act.

2. Encourage landowners to keep their land open to the public for recreation.

  • Educate landowners about the benefits of leaving land open to the public and the liability protections offered by existing laws and about NH's 20% recreational adjustment under the Current Use program.
  • Encourage landowners to keep their land open to the public and indicate uses they allow on their property.
  • Encourage open communication between the public, private landowners, and private user groups.
  • Recreation groups should provide monitoring and educate hikers, joggers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and hunters on respect for private land to help prevent unwanted trespassing and littering.

3. Encourage protection of open space for recreation and scenic views.

  • Encourage protection of scenic views of the river corridor and take advantage of opportunities to conserve riverfront land for public access, trails, birding, or other recreation.
  • The Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council should encourage protection of scenic views of the river corridor.
  • Encourage farmland conservation to keep farmland active and views open.
  • Regional Planning Commissions should inventory scenic views along the river corridor and the Connecticut River Byway.
  • USGen New England and its successors should keep Moore Reservoir undeveloped and rural.
  • New Hampshire should reinstate funding for LCHIP, which can provide funds to conserve open space for public recreation.

4. Prevent the spread of invasive species to this reach of the river.

  • Fish and Game/Wildlife and Parks/Recreation agencies should set up boat washing stations at launches at infested waters, to prevent their spread to the Connecticut River.
  • Fishing derby and regatta organizers should require boat and trailer checks before boats are launched.
  • Boaters should check their boats and trailers before launching in the Connecticut or its tributaries to avoid introducing milfoil, Zebra mussels, or other unwanted invasives.

5. Encourage more car-top boat access.

  • States and towns should encourage more car-top boat access for canoes and other small craft, on both the mainstem and tributaries, because of their low impact on the river. Use low-impact design and screen parking from the river with a vegetated buffer strip.
  • States should explore a registration fee for non-motorized boats, to provide funds for non-motorized river access.
  • The State of Vermont should work with the Vermont River Conservancy to explore the possibility of a public access easement below the Dodge Falls Dam in Ryegate, on the paper mill property.
  • State transportation agencies should assist in establishing access to the river where federal transportation funds are used in transportation projects.

6. Preserve the scenic rural character of local roads.

  • States and towns should avoid road improvement that could lead to increased speed of traffic.
  • States should assist towns in creating separate bike paths to reduce pressure to widen roads to accommodate bicycles.

7. Provide consistent dock rules on both sides of the river.

  • VT Agency of Natural Resources should adopt and enforce rules for docks on the Connecticut River similar to those established by New Hampshire. Consider both encroachment on the water and impact upon the banks when issuing permits.
  • In the absence of state oversight, Vermont towns should consider adopting local control of docks.
  • Shoreland owners wishing to install docks should check with NH DES to see if they can file a Seasonal Dock Notification or whether a permit is needed.

8. Ensure that water quality is safe for recreation.

  • NH DES should monitor and report on water quality, to ensure that the river is safe for swimming
  • Towns should notify the public immediately if there is a suspected water quality violation at a wastewater treatment plant during the summer recreation season.

9. Discourage high-impact recreation facilities.

  • Towns should discourage construction of marinas on the river.
  • Towns should discourage development of intensive recreational facilities such as theme parks near the river, to protect the environment and the passive recreational experience there
  • States and towns should discourage new public trailered boat access to the river, since access is now adequate.

10. Encourage low-impact recreation.

  • Help extend the Connecticut River Birding Trail into the Riverbend region.
  • Encourage inn-to-inn canoe and bicycle trips.
  • Explore federal and state funding programs to create trails, especially for cross-country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing
  • Build hiking and mountain biking trails on company lands around Moore Reservoir; restore the old trail along Moore Reservoir
  • Develop more published information on trail systems, explore possible trail system connections, and provide better signage
  • Business groups should consider sponsoring an annual paddling day trip on the river.

These recommendations are also priorities for the Riverbend Subcommittee

  • NH Marine Patrol should better enforce existing boating laws, boating under the influence of alcohol, and other regulations
  • Central Vermont Public Service should reprint its boating guide to the Passumpsic River.

Riverbend Recreation Plan Executive Summary
Riverbend Recreation Plan
Full Text
Appendix A -
Summary of Recommendations
Appendix B -
Progress to Date
Riverbend Region Recreation maps:

More on the Riverbend Subcommittee  

Upper Valley Region
(Bradford/Piermont to Hartford/Lebanon)

1. Ensure that new riverfront recreational facilities maintain a healthy riparian buffer and keep parking well back from the river.

  • Towns should discourage large parking lots at riverfront facilities, and closely review any development of new recreational facilities along the river.
  • Towns should screen parking at river access sites with a riparian vegetated buffer and install and maintain information boards at all water access sites, especially at Fullington Landing in Hanover, the Norwich access, and at Lebanon's access sites.
  • Towns should define "recreational facilities" in their land use regulations.

2. Reduce mercury contamination in the Connecticut River system.

  • Congress should take action to reduce the amount of air-borne mercury delivered to the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Vermont and New Hampshire legislatures should urge Congress to act.
  • NH DES should determine whether there should be a PCB advisory on the Connecticut River.

3. Protect shoreland and riparian buffers.

  • Towns should consider and adopt shoreline protection, and encourage retention of riverbank vegetation for its scenic value as well as for its role in limiting boat wake-induced erosion and protecting water quality for recreation.
  • Vermont should follow New Hampshire's example in adopting statewide shoreland protection.
  • Citizens should understand and obey state and local protection of riverbanks and buffers.

4. Increase enforcement of boating laws.

  • NH Marine Patrol should increase enforcement of boating speed laws, to prevent boating conflicts and minimize boat wake-induced riverbank erosion.
  • Fish and Game/Wildlife agencies and towns should provide information on boating laws at their river access points.
  • Boaters should obey existing boat speed laws.

5.Provide boat washing stations to reduce threat of invasive aquatic species.

  • Fish and Game/Wildlife and Parks/Recreation agencies should provide boat washing stations at ramps for trailered boats, and at Lake Morey, Lake Fairlee, Mascoma Lake, and other water bodies with infestations of invasive plants.
  • Agencies and towns should provide information on invasive species at their river access points.
  • Towns should monitor local boat access points for nuisance plants.
  • Boaters should check and wash boats and trailers before launching in the Connecticut or its tributaries to avoid introducing milfoil, Zebra mussels, or other unwanted invasives, especially when leaving infested water bodies.

6. Provide consistent review of dock construction on both sides of the river.

  • VT Agency of Natural Resources should adopt and enforce rules for docks on the Connecticut River and its tributaries similar to those established by New Hampshire.
  • NH DES and VT ANR should form a joint NH-VT committee to decide how to address dock permitting on the Connecticut River.
  • In the absence of state oversight, Vermont towns should consider adopting local control of docks.

7. Discourage construction of beaches.

  • NH DES and area towns should discourage construction of new public and private beaches on the riverfront because of the negative impact of removal of the riparian buffer and increased susceptibility to erosion

8. Discourage use of "jet skis" on the river.

  • The NH General Court should pass legislation updating the definition of personal water craft to include all such craft under the definition of ski craft, keeping the 300-foot distance from shore for travel over headway speed.
  • The Department of Safety Services should support this legislation.
  • Recreationists should avoid operating jet skis on the river, especially at night.

9. Discourage further construction or expansion of boat ramps.

  • States and area towns should discourage construction of new public and private boat ramps or expansion of existing ramps in this segment because of the negative impact of motor boats on the river and because adequate access for these boats already exists in the areas of the river deep enough to accommodate them.
  • Towns should discourage construction of marinas on the river.

10. Invest in land conservation to ensure that open space remains for public recreation.

  • NH General Court should fully fund LCHIP.
  • Towns should identify opportunities, when land use is changed, to retain easements for public access for trails, birding, car-top access, or other public recreation.
  • Towns should take action to protect scenic views of the river corridor if they have not already done so.
  • The Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council should aid in protection of scenic views of the river corridor.
  • The Upper Valley Land Trust should continue with its exemplary work in land conservation, providing public recreation access for car-top boats, wildlife observation, or trails where possible and appropriate.

These recommendations are also priorities for the Upper Valley River Subcommittee:

  • Citizens should avoid hiking or riding on trails in wet conditions, especially when exposed soils are saturated.
  • Fishermen and hunters should replace their lead tackle and shot with non-toxic alternatives.
  • State recreation agencies should address the growing problem of ATVs with enforcement, fines, higher registration fees, and requirements for membership in a club, and operator insurance.
  • The Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council should help educate visitors to the region on respectful use of private land, such as asking landowner permission and avoiding littering.
  • Recreation groups should provide monitoring, trail watches, and peer education on the proper use of private land to help prevent unwanted trespassing and littering.
  • Hunters should seek permission from landowners who have not posted their land, and demonstrate respect and courteous use of their land

Upper Valley River Recreation Plan Executive Summary
Upper Valley River Recreation Plan
Full Text
Appendix A -
Summary of Recommendations
Appendix B -
Progress to Date
Upper Valley River Recreation maps:

More on the Upper Valley River Subcommittee  

Mt. Ascutney Region
(Hartland/Plainfield to Rockingham/Charlestown)

1. Reduce mercury contamination of fish in the Connecticut River system.

  • Congress should take action to reduce the amount of air-borne mercury delivered to the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Vermont and New Hampshire legislators should urge Congress to act.
  • NH DES should determine if a PCB advisory on the Connecticut River is needed.

2. Improve water quality, which is currently considered unsafe for recreation in part of this region.

  • NH DES should assist Lebanon and VT AOT should assist Hartford with elimination of combined sewer overflows. New Hampshire's current assessment is that the river is unsafe for contact recreation above Blow Me Down Brook in Cornish due to upstream CSOs.
  • EPA should assist with funding for these expensive projects.
  • NH DES and VT ANR should assist all towns with improvement of water quality, to ensure that the river becomes safe for swimming once again above Blow Me Down Brook.
  • Towns should notify the public if there is a water quality violation at a wastewater treatment plant.

3. Invest in land conservation to ensure that open space remains for public recreation.

  • Land trusts and conservation commissions should continue their work in land conservation, providing public recreation access where appropriate.
  • Land trusts should help protect scenic views.
  • NH should reinstate funding of LCHIP.

4. Protect shoreland and riparian buffers.

  • Towns should consider and adopt shoreline protection, and encourage retention of riverbank vegetation for its scenic value as well as for its role in limiting boat wake erosion and protecting water quality for recreation.
  • Vermont should follow New Hampshire's example in adopting statewide shoreland protection.
  • Towns should discourage marina construction on the river
  • Citizens should understand and obey state and local protection of riverbanks and buffers.

5. Improve bicycling safety.

  • VT AOT should add a bicycle lane on certain sections of Route 5, a popular but dangerous bicycle route.
  • Regional planning commissions should help identify appropriate places for bike shoulders, and ensure adequate local public discussion.

6. Dam owners should continue to maintain their public river access facilities.

  • USGen and its successors should continue to maintain existing public river access facilities, including at Herrick's Cove, Charlestown Lower Landing, and the primitive canoe campsite at Lower Meadow.
  • USGen should conserve Sumner Falls and ensure continued public access to the river here.
  • US Gen should provide adequate safety signage indicating the level of skill needed to safely negotiate the rapids, and continue to work with the Town of Hartland to ensure adequate patrol to discourage vandalism and overnight use.

7. Protect the river against invasive species.

  • Boaters should check their boats and trailers before launching and after taking out of the Connecticut or its tributaries to avoid transporting milfoil, Zebra mussels, or other invasives.
  • NH Fish & Game should provide a better site for signage about invasive species at the Cornish Landing.

8. Discourage use of "jet skis" on the river.

  • Recreationists should avoid operating jet skis on the river, especially at night.
  • The NH General Court should pass legislation updating the definition of personal water craft to include all such craft under the definition of ski craft, keeping the 300 foot distance from shore for travel over headway speed.
  • The Department of Safety Services should support this legislation.

9. Increase enforcement of boating laws.

  • NH Marine Patrol should increase enforcement of boating speed laws, to prevent boating conflicts and minimize boat wake-induced riverbank erosion.
  • The Department of Safety Services should seek funding to support full-time marine patrol presence on the river.
  • NH Marine Patrol should make a special effort to be present at fishing tournaments.

10.Address the growing problem of ATVs.
State parks/recreation agencies should

  • Revise the ATV registration fee to ensure that is adequate to cover enforcement and create a landowner restitution fund.
  • Require ATV riders to be members of a statewide ATV organization which would provide training.
  • Set a meaningful penalty for eluding an officer on an ATV
  • Educate private landowners about the effects of allowing OHRV trails over streams on their land.
  • NH Fish and Game Dept. should set a fine schedule for ATV infractions, as required by law.

These recommendations are also priorities for the Mt. Ascutney Subcommittee:

  • State agencies and towns should avoid construction of further access points for trailered boats, since adequate access for these boats already exists in the areas of the river deep enough to accommodate them. Vermont agencies and towns considering expanding such access points should confer with NH Marine Patrol about the potential for increased enforcement needs.
  • States and recreation groups should educate landowners about the benefits of leaving land open to the public and the liability protections offered by existing laws, and educate landowners about NH's 20% recreational adjustment under the Current Use and Class A/B trails.
  • Towns and local recreation groups should explore federal and state funding programs, such as SAFE-TEA, to create trails and other new recreation opportunities.
  • Local fire departments should be sure they have adequate water rescue equipment.
  • Regional planning commissions should coordinate multi-community recreation plans.
  • Recreation groups should encourage stewardship of local recreation areas such as campsites, trails, and river access.
  • Snowmobile clubs should discourage snowmobiling on the river in winter.

Mt. Ascutney Region River Recreation Plan Executive Summary
Mt. Ascutney Region River Recreation Plan
Full Text
Appendix A -
Summary of Recommendations
Appendix B -
Progress to Date
Mt. Ascutney Region Recreation maps:

More on the Mt. Ascutney Region River Subcommittee  

Wantastiquet Region
(Westminster/Walpole to Hinsdale/Vernon)

1. Reduce mercury contamination in the Connecticut River system.

  • Congress should take action to reduce the amount of air-borne mercury delivered to the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Vermont and New Hampshire legislatures should urge Congress to act.
  • NH DES should determine if a PCB advisory on the Connecticut River is needed.

2. Ensure that the river's water quality is safe for recreation.

  • NH DES should monitor water quality, to ensure that the river is safe for swimming and other forms of recreation.

3. Protect shoreland and riparian buffers.

  • Towns should consider and adopt shoreline protection, and encourage retention of riverbank vegetation for its scenic value as well as for its role in limiting boat wake erosion and protecting water quality for recreation.
  • Vermont should follow New Hampshire's example in adopting statewide shoreland protection.
  • Towns should discourage further marina construction on the river.
  • Citizens should understand and obey state and local protection of riverbanks and buffers.

4. Invest in land conservation to ensure that open space remains for public recreation.

  • Towns should encourage protection of scenic views of the river corridor, explore the purchase of small parcels of land along the river and its tributaries for public parks, and identify opportunities, when land is developed, to retain easements for public access for trails, birding, car-top access, or other public recreation.
  • The Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council should encourage protection of scenic views of the river corridor.
  • Land conservation organizations should pursue protection for open space and scenic views, providing public recreation access for birding, car-top boats, or trails, especially near the river and its tributaries.

5. Address the growing problem of ATVs.

  • State Parks/Recreation agencies should provide more education for ATV riders and enforcement for ATV violations.
  • Towns should control establishment of public ATV trails within the town, and landowners should be educated about the effects of allowing ATV trails on their land.
  • States should allow ATV trails on public lands only after ample public discussion and only if the responsible state agency can adequately monitor the trails, with active cooperation from a local club.
  • ATV trails should not be expanded at Pisgah State Park in Chesterfield.

6. Encourage creation of more river access, especially for small, cartop boats.

  • NH Fish and Game Dept. should assist with construction of a boat access at the Cheshire County Farm in Westmoreland, and at the mouth of the Ashuelot River below Vernon Dam in Hinsdale.
  • NH DOT should add a path to the river and signage to the existing small parking area to create a cartop boat access at the new Route 9 bridge in Chesterfield.
  • VT Fish & Wildlife Dept. should assist the Town of Westminster with construction of a car-top boat access.
  • Towns should encourage more car-top boat access for canoes and other small craft, using low-impact design.

7. Be prepared for water rescue at all seasons.

  • Local fire departments should have water rescue equipment available for river recreation emergencies.

8. Understand respectful use of private land.

  • The Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council should help educate residents and visitors to the region.
  • Snowmobile clubs, Friends of Pisgah, ATV groups, hunting groups, bicycle clubs, and other recreation groups should provide monitoring and trail watches, and encourage peer education of resident and visiting hikers, joggers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and hunters about the impacts of different forms of recreation and the proper use of private land to help prevent unwanted trespassing and littering.

9. Prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals.

  • Boaters should check boats and trailers before and after launching in the Connecticut or its tributaries to avoid transporting milfoil, Zebra mussels, or other unwanted invasives.
  • Fishing tournament organizers should ask fishermen to check their boats and trailers before launching.
  • Towns should monitor local boat access points for nuisance plants and animals.
  • Agencies and towns should provide information on invasive species at their river access points.

10. Discourage use of "jet skis" on the river.

  • The NH General Court should pass legislation updating the definition of personal water craft to include all such craft under the definition of ski craft, keeping the 300 foot distance from shore for travel over headway speed.
  • The Department of Safety Services should support this legislation.

These recommendations are also priorities for the Wantastiquet Subcommittee:

  • Increase enforcement of boating laws.
  • Discourage further access for trailered boats, except below Vernon Dam and possibly at the Cheshire County Farm.
  • Vermont should confer with NH Marine Patrol if expansion of VT river access sites is planned.
  • Chesterfield should erect a signboard at its river access, and NH Fish and Game should erect one at Prospect Street in Hinsdale, and post information on boat speed laws, bank erosion, invasives, and boating etiquette.
  • Towns should consider adopting local control of docks, especially in Vermont in the absence of state oversight.
  • Trail users should avoid trails in wet conditions and help with trail maintenance.

Wantastiquet Region River Recreation Plan Executive Summary
Wantastiquet Region River Recreation Plan
Full Text
Appendix A -
Summary of Recommendations
Appendix B -
Progress to Date
Wantastiquet Region Recreation maps:

More on the Wantastiquet Region River Subcommittee