‘People’s forest’ marks 100 years

PLYMOUTH (AP) – New Hampshire’s most iconic attraction had been decimated by forest fires and logging when President Woodrow Wilson established it as a national forest a century ago.

Now, the White Mountain National Forest stretches over 800,000 acres in the northern part of the state and part of Maine. The forest is home to several ski lodges, campgrounds and has over 1,200 miles of non-motorized hiking trails.

It attracts millions of visitors each year and has become part of the state’s economic engine, contributing to the nearly $9 billion outdoor recreation industry that supports almost 80,000 jobs. Beyond that, it is a source of pride among New Englanders.

“There’s a reason why it’s called ‘the people’s forest’, it belongs to us all,” said Cynthia Robinson, director of the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University.

The U.S. Forest Service is kicking off the centennial celebration with an exhibition Wednesday that illustrates the forest’s history through art, artifacts and interactive experiences. Visitors will be immersed in sound bites from different parts of the forest – bird calls, babbling brooks, leaf-crunching – and will also be able to comment on what they envision the next 100 years to be for the federally protected land. The exhibit will run through mid-September.