My Turn: Tree growth obscures some lovely views
Fifty years ago, one could drive north on Route 16 out of Rochester and see the White Mountains as faint elevations in the distance. As one drew nearer, these peaks would appear to grow and grow until they overwhelmed the view. Today, we cannot enjoy that experience. Trees have grown and now hide these scenes. Perhaps a former view or two still exists, but the effect upon the soul is marginal.
When the interstate highways were built, many views opened up. One of my favorites was to drive northward on Interstate 93 toward Concord. As a person came over the final view before the state capitol, there appeared a wide expanse starting with Jerry Hill and Mount Kearsarge on the left and the whole of Concord lying on the right with the Belknap Mountains in the distance.
Today, trees block the entire right hand half of that view.
Another expanse is rapidly disappearing as you travel north on Interstate 89 just beyond Exit 5. Pats Peak in Henniker appears on the left, the Mink Hills and Lovewell Mountain in the center and other elevations on the right. The view has contracted down to a five-second glimpse as you shoot past milepost 9 at 65 mph. Within 10 years, this prospect will be completely gone.
In the past, I-89 provided many glimpses of Mount Kearsarge as one approached from the south. This mountain’s progression of growing closer and larger was intimidating. Today one sees only three quick views of Kearsarge between mileposts 7 and 21. Even these scenes will not last forever.
Many of these views will vanish in whole or in part before 50 years have passed unless there is selected clear-cutting or tree-topping of the forest. Such wood removal would represent but a tiny fraction of 1 percent of all the trees in the Granite State.
We are conditioned to believe that massive numbers of trees are great for the environment. They provide oxygen, they shelter animals, they prevent the extremes of temperature common to deserts, and their verdure is restful to the eyes.
Trees are one of New Hampshire’s greatest assets. But as they continue to grow, the state loses an even greater asset – the vast panoramas of mountains, villages and lakes loved by tourists.
(Brent E. Scudder lives in New London and is the author of “New Hampshire Roadside Viewing Guide,” from which this column is excerpted.)