A Conversation with N.H. Parks and Recreation Director Philip Bryce

Aug 6, 2019

Mount Monadnock as seen from Bald Rock.
Credit wikipedia

Phillip Bryce, Director of New Hampshire Parks and Recreation, oversees 93 parks and their infrastructure, including beaches, lakes, forests, trails, and buildings.  We ask how healthy our parks are and what the balance is, between attracting visitors and preserving natural resources.  

Philip Bryce has been Director of the state's Division of Parks and Recreation since 2011.  Formerly director of the Division of Forestry and Lands, Bryce has also worked in the forest management industry. At the Division of Parks and Recreation, Bryce runs four bureaus, includes the bureau of trails and of historic sites, as well as Cannon Mountain, a state-owned ski area in Franconia Notch State Park. 

Transcript:

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Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy and this is The Exchange.

Laura Knoy:
New Hampshire's state park system began in 1881 with the acquisition of Miller State Park in Peterborough, and in 2016 the state added its latest property through Lafayette Brook tract in Franconia. Today, there are 93 sites under state parks from blockbusters like Hampton and Snoopy to Tranquil, tucked away places like Pisco or Deer Mountain. And in recent years, more visitors and Granite Staters alike have been flocking to these special spots, bringing in revenue, but also at times straining natural resources. Balancing it all is our guest today, Philip Bryce. He's director of New Hampshire's Division of Parks and Recreation. We're sitting down with him this hour and we'd love to hear from you. Our email exchange at nhpr.org. Once again, exchange at nhpr.org. Use Facebook or Twitter @nhprexchange to give us a call, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And Director Bryce, nice to see you. Welcome back to The Exchange.

Philip Bryce:
Thank you. Great to be here.

Laura Knoy:
How was the summer season been so far?

Philip Bryce:
It's been it's been very good. We've had spring was a little wet and so is a little bit of a cold, wet start. But our beaches are going strong. And particularly Hampton, of course, our campgrounds are pretty much full on weekends. We've seen an increase in the last since 2013 of about 30 percent increase in our our visitation. Well, that's a loss for some. Yeah. So it's nice because our mission is to get people outdoors, enjoying the outdoors, because good for your health is good for your frame of mind.

Laura Knoy:
And it's wonderful to see that what parks are the busiest in the summer? Philip Bryce?

Philip Bryce:
Well, I would say, of course, Hampton Beach is the busiest. I think we have up to two million visitors to that. That that park alone, Franconia Notch State Park, is pretty busy. Monadnock, Pawtuckaway, Bear Brook. Of course, we we we have a lot of parks that, you know, about half our parks are free. So we have a lot of attendance that we don't know is occurring in some of our locations and on our state forest. But but those are those are some of our biggest ones.

Laura Knoy:
So as you said, a lot of the parks are free and the natural areas and the wayside areas and the historic sites. How do the sort of blockbusters like the Hamptons and the Sun appeals help pay for, you know , the Piscas as the deer mountains that the other smaller, lesser known?

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, it's interesting. We have great we have great statutes. The legislature has passed great statutes and how the park operates financially and allows us. It actually says not all parks are are intended to be self supporting that it's right in law. And what that says is that the parks that can make money like Franconia Notch, which which makes almost half the provides almost half the revenue in the park system, will support, you know, the maintenance of a little wayside area or or, you know, we charge it. We charge it roughly half the parks. And of those, only half make money. So there are parks we charge, but they still lose money. And they need that support, too, because they're very you know, people get very, very attached to particular parks. And it's important to be able to adequately maintain them and improve them. So that that works out, that the way we're set up works out very well. Even though we're in. You know, we're we're operationally self-funded.

Laura Knoy:
So give us a little more on that. My understanding is, Director Bryce, correct me if I'm wrong, please, that New Hampshire state parks are the only ones that are self-funded. In other words, the fees pay for the parks. You don't get general fund revenue.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, our historic sites are generally funded nicely under the commissioner's office. But are our parks system. We we raise well, raise it, raise all our revenue to operate. And other park systems are very across the country, are very sort of envious of of the way we're structured because increasingly they're having to move to more self funding.

Philip Bryce:
Some park systems like Vermont, they receive a lot of revenue from their ski area leases. That supports a lot of it, but not directly from operations. And so it actually works. You know, now that we had about a two point six million dollar deficit in 2006, I remember that. And due to the the support of the legislature, you know, governor's office, park staff, partners, we were able to get out of that to the point where we have enough of a surplus to be comfortable for a a bad year.

Philip Bryce:
You know, if we have a poor, poor weather year because we're so dependent on weather. So that model that model works. But you do have to have parks like the flume that generate a lot of surplus revenue in order to be able to function. And we're able to do that. We're able to do that and then put it back into the parks. You know, like the north the north region loses money. But, you know, the north region parks are critical to that tourism economy. So you wouldn't want to have all the money going back into just, well, any surplus money generated a part goes just goes back into that park, because then what do you do for the ones that don't?

Laura Knoy:
Well, how does that fit in that funding model, fit in with the broader mission of the state parks system?

Philip Bryce:
Well, you know, I've spent about half my career in the private sector and so in the private sector, while, you know, businesses can be very mission focused, you know. Oh, and you know, for good, you know, to provide an excellent product or service or whatever that is, ultimately their purpose is to, you know, they've got to generate a profit. We generate. We generate. We try to generate a profit, so to speak, although it's not the right word for state agency. But we try to generate a surplus so that so that so that we can carry out our mission, whereas the mission of a private sector business is to make a profit.

Philip Bryce:
So so we have to we have to consciously remember that because we have to stay focused on on controlling costs, generating revenue. But we also have to remember that the reason we're doing that is to provide the best possible experience for our visitors and to take care of these places.

Laura Knoy:
So it's a dual mission Director Bryce. It's to get people outdoors and it's to take care of these special natural places.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah. Even if people don't go to a place, we still need to take care of it.

Laura Knoy:
And why is that? If someone's never going to go away up north to Deer Mountain or some of the other fabulous parks there, why should somebody nationally care about Deer Mountain, which is almost in Canada?

Philip Bryce:
Well, I had in a way back in the Northern Forest Lands Council days when we were dealing with the land, big land sales. And then and in New England, a woman said, you know, I you know, I'm never gonna go up there, but it's nice to know it's there. And so I think I think it plays into knowing these places are there and that they're very they're available and they're special. And, of course, that may not mean something directly to you, but it may be to a family member. And so these these you know, Teddy Roosevelt, of course, I go back to Teddy Roosevelt. He was a big supporter of having places so very special, unique places available to the public, not just to people that could afford to buy that land. And they hold it and they keep it. You know, they keep it for themselves.

Philip Bryce:
So I think I think the the important pieces to have and we we're really lucky in New Hampshire, because I think it's diversity within proximity. I mean, you can be at Hampton Beach with like 80000 people in the morning and you can get up to Connecticut Lakes Headwaters, where the state has an easement and owns the roads and be miles from anyone all in the same state, in the same basic park and reservation system and that. And then in between, you got all the lakes, you got Mount Washington, you got all kinds of parks like the tucked away.

Philip Bryce:
We can go climbing. You got places of it, you know, significant geologic issues, significance. You've got like Madison, Boulder, you've got a course and of course, you've got a wonderful historic sites.

Laura Knoy:
And also to the to the question about why anybody should care if they only go to one state park or they never get out. Now we hear a lot, Director Bryce, about so-called ecosystem services. So those parks that you may never visit are helping to filter the water, keep the air clean and so forth.

Laura Knoy:
So there's that as well.

Philip Bryce:
Yes. We have a system of what we call state reservations. So we don't have a park is just a name. In many respects or a state forest. And so you can use the state forest for recreation. You can even put a campground there, Livermore Falls. That area is actually in a state forest. And it's a wonderful site along the along the river there. And so. So, yes, our our system of reservations in our agency provides all of that. You know, there's timber harvesting, water quality, wildlife habitat and, of course, recreation.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Director Bryce lots of people who want talk to you already. So when we asked people on Facebook to what their favorite New Hampshire state park is, why they love it. So I want to share some of those with you as well. And you can call in with your questions or comments about New Hampshire state parks. What is your favorite park? What would you like to see change with our state park system? We'd love to hear from you. Our number, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 this hour on The Exchange was sitting down with Philip Bryce. He's director of New Hampshire Parks and Recreation. I got our number, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 where you can email us, exchange it NH PR dot org. And Director Bryce, let's go to the phones. Steve's calling from Nottingham. Hi, Steve. Go ahead. You're on the air.

Caller:
Good morning. And I want to thank you. Thank you for a particular state park in Iowa state parks. And the reason I'm calling is that I'm a volunteer with a Pawtuckaway Lake and Pullman Association and we've been having a struggle within those two weeks before and ripped. We've had incredible cooperation and working together in alliance with the folks, a particular state park. They work with us. They work together with us. And it's a pleasure to see that level of cooperation for something rare, Ron, which is a better lake.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Steve, I'm so glad you called, because we should talk about some of the issues concerning New Hampshire lakes, including those in state parks. What about invasive species in some of these lakes like the lake at to a takeaway state park, Philip Bryce?

Philip Bryce:
Yes. Yeah, we would. We would obviously work with organizations like that. And I'd like to thank Steve for his his, you know, him volunteering because our system is successful. It is because of our volunteers. And we would you know, we work with DHS. You know, we'd work with DHS to deal with in bases. Right now, the biggest issue or one of the biggest issues we're facing is, is water quality related to geese and keeping the geese off the beach. And and so we've had we've had more, you know, higher bacteria counts this year than we would like to. And that's always a struggle. And it's a struggle not for just for us, but for other park systems. So. So there are those there are those out. You have a lot of challenges that you don't think of those sometimes. But, you know, geese invasive. You know, there's a constant pressure to try to make sure that people can have, you know, have a nice experience when they visit our beaches.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and so DES Department of Environmental Service says what tactics are the two of you taking to combat this mill foil problem? I was in Wadleigh State Park, I think a week or two ago. And I have to say the swimming felt a little bit creepy because milfoil was brushing up against my leg.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, we, you know, part other than like what Steve mentions, we don't have we we within our agency, we don't have a real aggressive effort, you know, ourselves that we're doing it. We rely on DES when it went part, when a when an area gets to that level where, you know, work needs to be done or treatment needs to be done. You know, we would we would work with them.

Laura Knoy:
So and in terms of the geese, again, I visit a lot of state parks. I was up at Forest Lake State Park last week and I saw two creatures on the beach. And I was the only one there, by the way. And I thought, OK, is that a coyote? Is that a fox? What is that? And it turns out it was a plastic statue of a coyote to scare geese away. So and there were two of them on this beach. But from far away, I thought, is that for real? As I got closer, I realized and they were signs they're saying do not touch property state, New Hampshire. This is to scare the geese away. But there was some goose excrement on the beach. Not a lot. But it's tough, isn't it? You got a lot to concern yourself with. And some of these parks just don't have the staff to manage it.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah. Well, Forest Lake isn't staff full time. Actually, we don't charge there. But I know it's a really, really important park to the local community.

Philip Bryce:
And yeah. So folks have ideas about how to keep geese off the beach in others that you let let dogs, you know, dogs put up barriers so they can't see the water. It's you know, there's all kinds of ideas where we're up to to listen to those to see if we can come up with a solution. So.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Steve, thank you for the call. Again, our number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We got an e-mail before the show, Director Bryce from Charlie, who says, I visit state parks frequently and all over the country. One thing I've noticed in recent years about New Hampshire state parks is the attention paid to picnic tables. Charlie says the focal point of many state park camping experiences for family and friends. Charlie says, I wonder if the director could talk about the quote. Little things like picnic tables, restrooms, paint and just basic physical appearance of our state park facilities and how attention to these details can add up to a more memorable park experience. Charlie's right. You go to a state park and then you go to the ladies room and it's messy. You kind of go, Oh, I don't know how I feel about this.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, that's ops. That's Charlie makes an excellent point. When when I came on board, we we were still in a deficit in the parks fund and we didn't. And we needed to do something to show, you know, to show that it was worth investing in the park system and that you could make a difference. And by doing some small things. And so we started working on just refurbishing our picnic tables and making sure they're painted because as he points out, it is particularly for camping.

Philip Bryce:
It's kind of like the center your universe, and you don't want to have something that's rotten and and falling apart and disgusting, whatever. So. So that's been, you know, an ongoing focus. And we have thousands of picnic tables in our park system. And so it is a constant effort to do that. But it's not only that, it's keeping the grounds. So we can't always have a brand new, you know, one or ten million dollar facility. But as a visitor, when I show up and I see that things are painted, that they're straight and level, that they're the weeds are trimmed back and it looks like it's cared for. It just creates such a better experience. And our staff is really, really you know, they know that they get that. And so they do pay attention to those.

Philip Bryce:
You know, it's very important to pay attention to those details. And, of course, you know, clean bathrooms. We often get comments from folks, you know, that are camping on how how clean our bathrooms are, because I can't throughout the country, too. And I was at a campground not to pick on Wisconsin, but it was it was the staff had this beautiful new office. You know, it was actually gorgeous. And you go to the bathroom. And the thing was absolutely. And we we would do the opposite. We would build the built bathroom before with open eyes for the customer, before we built a nice office for the staff. And so we know we know how important that is to the experience and research has proven it as well.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and keeping everything spruced up from picnic tables to bathrooms takes people. Director Bryce and The Exchange did a weeklong series in May on the state's severe workforce shortage. I wonder how that's affecting your division.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, it does. It affects us a lot. We were fortunate this year to get J1 students to help us out at the seacoast because last year we were like half staff which created which was really, really difficult on us. But it is day one. Direct A J1 is, you know, students come in from other countries and they they work and get an, you know, share and experience in the US that they can then take back and helps their, you know, helps their overall life experience. So. So we do we do, you know, recruiting lifeguards on inland unknown beaches. And of course, a lot of because of the way the schools are.

Philip Bryce:
I know there was looking addressing in this in the legislature this past session, the the way the schools are set up, a lot of kids end up you know, we still have full we're going full bore. At the end of August and the kids are gone back to school or at a football practice or whatever it might be. And that makes it very difficult us. We're trying to do things such as build our structures such they're easier to maintain. I mean, something, you know, to get at a great level, it like instead of having toilets on the floor, they're attached to the wall. So it speeds up the amount. That adds up over hundreds and hundreds of, you know, of those facilities, lawnmowers, instead of having, you know, buying a lawnmower that can mow the lawn in a much more, you know, quickly.

Laura Knoy:
So just capital efficiencies in terms of the physical capital. And that means you need a little less human capital, it sounds like.

Philip Bryce:
Yes. Yes. And also, you know, our staffing of our tollbooths. You know, we've been discussing. You know, if we'd only have we'd have a lot of people in the park, you know, that park person. We don't need two people.

Philip Bryce:
We can have one person that helps helps maintain the park instead of just being in the toll booth. And so we're we're really thinking through that. We'd like to have people welcome people to the park. That's very important to us. But we need to find a compromise there.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, I've seen a fair number of senior citizens manning the toll booths at some of the state. Park yourself. Yeah. All right. Big help. Lots want to talk about after a short break. Director Bryce and we'll keep taking your calls, comments, questions, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Email exchange at an HP Ya dot org. Coming up, we'll talk about parks that are so popular that heavy use has become a problem. And again, we'll keep hearing from you. You can use Facebook or Twitter as well. It's an HP exchange. Well, give us a call, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Today, it's a summer check in with the director of New Hampshire State Parks, Phil Bryce. And let's hear from you. What's your favorite state park or parks? You have to pick just one. What would you like to see change or improve at our state parks? How satisfied are you with the state park system? We'd love to hear from you. Send us an e-mail exchange at an HP port org. Use Facebook or Twitter. At an age PR exchange, the number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And Director Bryce, let's go back to our listeners. Bill's calling from Groton. Hi, Bill. You're on the air.

Laura Knoy:
Go ahead. Hi.

Caller:
Thank you, Laura.

Laura Knoy:
Sure.

Caller:
I haven't called in a hundred years.

Caller:
Director Right. First of all, I want to say before I get into what I call. I really appreciate how you folks treat disabled veteran. The free access is wonderful. People have the right documentation. And then also I want to comment on Wellington State Park. The staff you have there is incredibly professional.

Laura Knoy:
Let's get that all my favorite Bill here. Wellington. Yes.

Caller:
Right there. We live in the area. We do avail ourselves of it. Great. My daughter loves that there. I love. And with that said, one of the areas that Wellington's death is responsible for sculptured Rock State Park, our resource area, which is in Groton on a municipal road. And I happen to live right off of that road. Oh, boy. And we've encountered this is this is an issue that it's hard to control the wall because it's the next head of state and municipal government and social media.

Caller:
Last year when I was scrolling through Facebook, there were one hundred and fifteen thousand likes on a comment or a post about culture, rock state park. And it's a two lane road with no end up, no line down the middle. It just got washed out in a flood. And the traffic is insane.

Caller:
And we have people camping in the parking lot, campfires without permits. That's what they get by. Is there any way now that the staff did try and take care of it? to a point. But there are limits. You have limited resources. You've been talking about that. But how do you see yourself dealing with the wear and tear on our roads and just the the the damage and litter that's created by the activity with that much attention to an area like that?

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Bill, I am so glad you called, because, Dr. Bryce, this is really something we need to talk about. This has also happened at Diana's baths. It's also happening at Lincoln, Lafayette, Franconia Notch State Park. So I'd love for you to address his specific point about that area. But also, just more broadly, some of these places are some people say they're being loved to death traffic concerns. Locals saying, hey, this is dangerous, you know, below.

Philip Bryce:
So that's a that's that's kind of showing what we're facing as people find out about how awesome these places are. And they share it with social media in a way that didn't happen. You know, 10 or 20 years ago. But, you know, and yet and I would say that, yes, we need to put, you know, get get sculptured rocks, you know, on the front burner to try to address that. Do we build a bigger parking lot? You know, do we move to, you know, full time staff? I will say there's hope, though, because if we look at Livermore Falls in homelessness, 40 percent of the police calls were at that site in the town. And we had we have a friends of the Pemmy, a friends group, just a wonderful piece of led by the Plymouth Rotary, wonderful group of people who helped create the will to address it. You know, in the community and develop enough support. So we got funding for a parking lot and and now we actually staff it. And in the last time I checked with the chief, you know, a year or two later, there were no police calls at the site because we had we had actually stepped in and provided stewardship to that location. And I would say, you know, people ask what makes up a state park?

Philip Bryce:
Of course, it's a you know, it's a wonderful location that people want to go to. But there is this element of supervision and control that is one of the key elements. And that's something that's needed at at at, you know, needed at this site. We just have to figure out how to do it, because you have to pay for it in some fashion and be able to find the staff to do it.

Laura Knoy:
So would a larger parking lot, alternative parking lot, shuttle, whatever, would the cost for that come out of the capital budget?

Philip Bryce:
No, it would come out of our operating budget. Would you talk about Franconia Notch? Right now, we expect to lose close to 50000 dollars this year on operating the shuttle at Franconia Notch to keep people safe off the highway. You know, we have a great partnership with DOT and Safety, but the parks and I commend the park staff, J.D., and his crew up there. You know, we said let's just start operating a shovel nonstop. Let's not wait for studies and all this kind of stuff. We went in, we ordered a couple. This is the wonderful part about the way the legislature set up our park system.

Philip Bryce:
We just said let's order a couple of shuttles and start providing the surfers have people park over in the lot, Peabody lot. We started doing it and we had one day I think we did. We broke. We had 500 people take the shuttle in and they're not parking on the highway, but they still have access to the trails they want to get to. So it's that type of solution. But now we've got to revisit that and say, all right, well, how are we going to go about funding this shuttle? Because we can't you know, we need those. Fifty thousand dollars is almost what it cost to operate an average state park in New Hampshire state parks. But for for us, it was really it's the biggest priority was the safety of our visitors.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and for listeners who haven't been following that story, Director Bryce, if you could just briefly remind people who don't go up to the notch like you or I do frequently what the issue was there and why you finally had to pay for this shuttle.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah. The the folks were we just saw the parking lots would fill up and parks would just park.

Philip Bryce:
People would just start parking on the highway.

Laura Knoy:
And it's a skinny highway.

Philip Bryce:
It's a skinny highway. It's an interstate. You're not allowed. It's illegal to park on the highway. But more importantly, it's it's just dangerous. If, you know, I heard a story of, you know, of like dog jumping out of a car. So a dog jumps out of a car, a little kid runs across the road. Even if you're over on the side, you can't control that. And there's a lot, of course, truck traffic that comes through there. Duty told me one time, you know, if the winds up, they've had tractor trailers blow over. Wow. So it's in and it's nice to drive through there, not see the cars there. And because I know that people are, you know. People are recreating more safely.

Laura Knoy:
So so cars were parking along the highway. It was a big problem. You got some help from Department of Transportation. They put up sort of cones and lines, right. So people physically could not do it. And then you guys started a shuttle for people who want to do that. Really famous. Lincoln Lafayette hike.

Philip Bryce:
Yes. Yes. The. Yeah. The bridle path. Falling Waters trail and. Yeah. And so we operate. It's it's a it's a short trip. It cost five dollars to help offset at least some of the costs. I would say safety also helped us, especially initially when we got it makes a big difference when you have a state trooper there with flashing lights to say, OK, you gotta follow the rules when you're coming. They're not. So and then we have the White Mount National Forest, AMC and another larger group. You know, you pointed out , Diana's bath, starting to have a conversation about the larger issue of parking and and facilities and all that in the White Mountain region. So there is there is that going on?

Laura Knoy:
So when the issue that our caller raises about Groton, you know, the town is getting frustrated with all the people parking there and overflow and so forth. That's the same issue at Diana's baths. Right. And correct me if I'm wrong, is that North Conway? We're down.

Philip Bryce:
Well, it's a it's a yes, north north of Conway area. And that's actually a National Forest Park site.

Laura Knoy:
I see. it's not your purvue.

Philip Bryce:
It's not it's one. It's not ours. OK. So that's not that's good. But, you know, there was lessons learned from that one as well. And and they I think they're doing some similar things to help solve that.

Laura Knoy:
Are there lessons learned from other parks that are so popular that heavy use is leading to the resource itself being maybe not degraded, but stressed Minot, not moment and not supposedly the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mt. Fuji. I won't go there and say that's absolute fact because I have no idea. But what about Mountain had not? How are you guys sort of managing that? Yeah, the huge amount of people who like to hike that mile.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, it's. Well we just had trails, trails week that the the four society lead you know has taken the lead on over the years and arranges for volunteers to come to help us with our trail work. We just actually are worked on securing recreational RTP funds, recreational transportation program funds to start doing work for society. Did an assessment of an ad knock that indicated that, you know, there as much as 2 million dollars worth of trail work that needed to be done because people start you know, people people walk in the middle of the trail. Then they as that gets less desirable to walk on, then they move out, then they move out further and then people are coming down.

Philip Bryce:
The trail just keeps getting wider and wider. And so they're, you know, doing more rock steps. You know, it's some pretty heavy technical work that needs to be done up there. But it's so visited that, you know, that needs to happen. If you look at if you look at trail, if you look at trails in other parts of the world where it's very heavily used, you know, they're basically they put in steps. You know, it's very, very highly. You know, there's a lot of infrastructure there to support. So that's a sustainable activity. And so, you know, I think as folks know that the the the foot for society actually owns and leases to the state, most of mount monadnock. And so we appreciate their their help and focus on that as well.

Laura Knoy:
It's been a while since I've been to Monadnock. Do you guys charge to climb Monadnock.

Philip Bryce:
Well if you go if you enter the main entrance. Yes. There's of the state park. Of the state park. There's a there's a store there. But also there's no bathroom facilities which aren't necessarily at the other locations. And we just spent over a million to expand that bathroom and also make it available in the winter. Monadnock is one of our most popular parks. About hiking in the winter because it gives you a real sort of north country, you know, White Mountain National for experience in the south part of the state and very, very popular for that. And so we have upgraded, you know, and that's what we bring to the partnership with the Forest Society, is that those capital funds as well as hopefully some more funds to help with the maintenance of the trail system.

Laura Knoy:
And the funds to again, upgrade bathrooms, fix the trails to those come from operating or capital of the operating budget.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, go ahead.

Philip Bryce:
It's a mix. We actually are using Atlanta water conservation funds there and we're getting more funds coming through. 40 percent of that comes to the state, 60 percent we put out to communities for their projects like the project in Littleton, the project and Franklin playgrounds are using that source of funds were also you. We also do supplement with operating funds because when we give a an estimate of a project to the Capital Budget Committee, you know, it's an estimate that comes out. And by the time we build it, it costs more. So we find we have to bring in we keep a little operating fund surplus aside in order so that we can go to. I didn't do the project, and so so so that one is actually, I think, a mix of all three sources of funds and and hopefully we'll have a dedicated were planning on having a dedication a little bit later this year because we're so excited to have that one, that one done after it has been on the table for like 10 years.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, well, and again, the capital budget for those sort of physical upgrades at state parks that was approved. Right. Director Bryce. I'd like the stalemate over the regular budget.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, the my understanding is that the law was passed, signed and it's law and it's in place. We've received about over the since of the last 10 years, about forty nine million in capital. And it is critical for us. We have about 260 million dollars worth of assets in the park system. That's about what we estimate. And you need to be putting 1 to 4 percent of your asset value back into your park system. And that hasn't always happened over the past because of available funding. And so we are doing a lot of catch up. So the cat. We the legislature, since I've been in my tenure has been extraordinarily supportive in our capital budget. Granted, about how, you know, a little less than half of that 20 million has gone out to Hampton for the seawall and for the new facility. But also keep in mind that, you know, they have millions of visitors, too. So it's that so those investments are serving a lot of people that are visiting New Hampshire.

Laura Knoy:
Again, our number for you to join us on state parks is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Send us an email if you'd like. Exchange at nhpr.org. Use Facebook or Twitter at nhpr exchange. Philip Bryce is here today, director of New Hampshire Parks and Recreation. And as he's telling us, he oversees 93 parks and their infrastructure, beaches, lakes, forest trails, buildings. We're looking at how healthy the parks are and what the balance is between attracting visitors and preserving natural resources. Again, we'd love your comments, questions, personal experiences with this at 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Director Bryce, since you mentioned the seawall at Hampton Beach, I would like to ask you how climate change is affecting New Hampshire state parks.

Philip Bryce:
Well, I think it's more extreme weather events. I mean, that's what we're seeing. And interesting enough, we have the two areas that get hit the hardest is the sea coast, where we have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage from a couple of years ago. And our trail system, you know, we have well, not including the hiking sales, you know what, 10000 miles of trails in our in our four snowmobiles and ATV is. And it's you know, your culverts need to be bigger now because the the intensity of the storms is greater is what you know, where our staff has observed and and replacing bridges. And so that's where we that's where we really get hit.

Philip Bryce:
And of course, the trail system is maintained by, you know, the registrations that are are paid to maintain that system. And then, of course, it's also maintained by the all the clubs that we wouldn't be able to maintain that without the volunteers and our our snowmobile and ATV clubs. We wouldn't have snowmobiles in New Hampshire without them. And and they help us. But, you know, when we go to replace a bridge, that's a big you know, that's a big project for us to take on. So that's that's where we're getting. That's where we're getting the the most concern. The other concern, of course, is whenever. I'm always worried about when I see a thunderstorm head across. You know, our campers, you know, in our campgrounds and, you know, high winds and you're in a tent and and, you know, making sure everyone is safe.

Philip Bryce:
You know, when it when a really, really bad storm, when lightning comes through. And so, you know, I just encourage everybody to be conservative if a storm's coming through. Get in a safe place. And and all this at parks, all sleep of sleep a little better and of course, work with the park staff if something major happens. But yes, there's definitely we've seen a big change over over since I've been on on at parks and in the. The impact on from these just the intensity of these storms.

Laura Knoy:
I have also heard that water contamination at lakes is more of a problem because you have severe storms, lots of rain all at once, increases the runoff into the lakes and then you have increased risk of cyanobacteria. And I wonder how much you're seeing that Director Bryce.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah. We do notice that sometimes in some of our lakes that after a big storm, we'll get wash up from a wash. You know, the water from upstream will will come down and it'll it'll change the the change the you know, the chemistry lake. So it doesn't. You know, it doesn't. The the bacteria, the lake. So so we have to, you know, put a warning on the beach. So that's definitely the case. The other thing I would say, though, is we are you know, we have summer where we're in summer parks. We are also all about winter. And, you know, we can see of with snow fall is critical to the success of our snowmobiling are our ski areas, you know, ski areas, you know, in the rest of New Hampshire or so. On the other side of climate change, it's it's it's are we going to you know, we can be able to sustain our winter sports because unlike a ski area, a snowmobile trail, you can't you don't have a light joke with Chris Gamache our Trails Bureau about building a portable snowmaking machine to mount on a tractor. You know, you need the natural snow to maintain the snowmobile. The snowmobile sport, which is particularly important to the north country.

Laura Knoy:
Here's an email that came in from Kim who says, I'd like to know what is being done to improve equestrian access in our state parks with all did develop all the development going on in New Hampshire, trail riding areas are more and more difficult to find. Some states, such as Florida, have special horse trailer parking areas and even allow horse camping. Kim, I'm so glad you wrote in because I want to ask about horses, but also Director Bryce after a short break.

Laura Knoy:
I want to ask you about increasing use by different types of users horses, mountain bikes, ATV fees and so forth. So we'll pick that up. Kim after a short break. And thank you again for writing. You can send us an email as well. Its exchange at nhpr.org or give us a call after the break. 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Tomorrow on our show, what's next for alternative energy in New Hampshire? After the failure of Northern Pass. E-mail us your thoughts before the show to exchange at an HP morgue and be sure to join us tomorrow morning live at 9:00. This hour, we're talking about the state of state parks with Parks and Recreation director Phil Bryce. And we've been hearing from you send those e-mails in exchange at an HP morgue or feel free to give us a call, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And Director Bryce, just before the break, Kim wrote in asking about better access to state parks from four horses. You've said that not only do more people in general want to use the parks, they want to use them for an increasing variety of purposes. So I wonder if you can just address address that issue, not just the specifics that Kim raises, but the broader issue.

Philip Bryce:
Yeah, well, I'll start with the equestrians. And we went through and updated our rules a few years ago. And one of the things we did was update them. So. So there was more available access for equestrian ads on our on our state reservations, as I said earlier. You know, that's both our state forest and state parks. And we updated them to provide more, more, more access. I would also say I think we made a lot of progress at Bear Brook. We have a lot of hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian. And we worked with that community to get them to work together, to talk about how to how to share that park and have trails where we encourage mountain bikers and have trails where we encourage equestrian. It's not that you can't go on that trail. It's just that you you know, you're if you're on a horse, you know, there's a lot of there's there's a lot of etiquette associated with that. But if you have a high level of use, it's very awkward for mountain bikers to have to stop all the time. And the same with equestrian is to make accommodations for people to get by.

So we've been very happy with with with our equestrian and mountain bike community out there. And actually we're working on a project to to a pilot to to do horse camping, you know, at the request still. Well, they go out at Bare Brook and we're gonna give it a try. It's the old ball field across the street. And and we're very excited about that because we do think it's a you know, it's a wonderful opportunity to provide a great use for, you know, to provide for that use that the one of the issues you run into, though, is it comes to the ecological side is as we think about having a trail for mountain bikers, a trail for equestrian is a trail for hikers, whatever it might be.

Philip Bryce:
Right. And then another one for ATVs. You're fragmenting the forest.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I was wondering about how many trails can you build.

Philip Bryce:
And there's there's research out there about disturbance of wildlife. You know, nesting birds and things like that. And so we have to bring that in, too, because it's not you know, we don't manage our agency doesn't just manage our recreation.

Philip Bryce:
We manage for those, you know, the ecological benefits to which includes our wildlife habitat. So it's not always as easy as, you know, addressing these is building a bigger parking lot or adding more trails, is trying to find that, you know, creative ways to balance that use in a few years ago. Yet it was apparent to us with the you know, the ATV have been very, particularly very important to the north country in terms of supporting the economy.

Philip Bryce:
I was just up at the ATV festival that occurred this past weekend. And, you know, I think 9000 folks came, you know, become part of economic. You know, one a piece of the economic drive in the north country is people that actually I know have moved up there so that they have access to ATV riding. But there's some downsides. There's no question there's downsides to that. And one of them is against this mix, like the equestrian and the mountain bikers is having a mix between, you know, ATV years and other other uses. You know, for me, the concept of multi use trails works at low, low and low use. But when you start getting high, using you to look at it differently. So we contracted with the North Country Council to do a work to start to open up that conversation about, you know, what is the how do we how do we ensure that all of our visitors have a great experience that they'd like to have no matter what they're doing and whether they're motorized or non motorized? And, you know, and really think about how do we get at that and how do we come up with a plan to accommodate that? You know, we have a lot of land.

Philip Bryce:
We are so fortunate, New Hampshire's, that landowners are so private landowners, which is, you know, the majority of the ownership, more than the majority of the ownership allow us access to those to their lands for outdoor recreation. And you know that they're also in the play, too, is what is the reaction? What is the interaction between our users and the private land owners, not just state lands?

Laura Knoy:
Well, it's really tricky because how do you satisfy? You know, within the confines of one park, an ATV, a hiker who wants some quiet and solitude, a mountain biker who wants to explore a horse person he wants to explore and also camp, I mean, you're right, you can't build five trails for everybody. On the other hand, the state parks are for everybody, right?

Philip Bryce:
Yeah. Yeah, I were. And the legislature passed some legislation to do some more studies. You know, I think on the basis of it is around ATV use and and we're looking to try to find the funding for that to continue to move that conversation forward. That started with the North Country Council. I don't have you know, I don't have the answer to it. I think it's going to really depend on all of the users sort of understanding. You know, we're all like we're all out. We all love the outdoors. We love being that whether you're riding of a vehicle or a mountain bike or just walking. And we certainly need to share that and and understand what each each of us are looking to, to have and work together to see if we can we can come up with something that preserves the the best experience for everyone. All right.

Laura Knoy:
Well, let's go back to our listeners. Director. Bryce, we could probably talk about that point for another 20 minutes. But let's go to Whitefield where Tom is on the line. Hi, Tom. Go ahead. You're on the air.

Caller:
Thank you, Director Bryce, for appearance. And a question I have is dealing with Forest Lake State Park, a beautiful lake on it, and is part of the 300 acre park possibility nearby. About a quarter mile of the landfill being opened in Dalton. And the state parks, of course, is in Dalton. So there's big battles going on back and forth on it. Dalton has put off about till next March. A final vote on zoning or not zoning for a landfill. So my question to you is, is the state park agency aware of this and are you involved in it in any way because you spoke about possibility of water pollution of various state parks due to overuse, etc., of rain and so on like that.

Laura Knoy:
And thank you so much for the call, Tom. And any surprise, any real peek, by the way, did an excellent piece on this controversy. So if people wanna learn more about it, you can go to any nhpr.org and check out Annie's piece. But Forest Lake State Park, the caller is right. There's a proposal for a landfill nearby. There are concerns about water contamination. Has your agency taken a position on this director?

Philip Bryce:
Yes, a number of the public meetings. We've had staff there and actually some of our staffs. But, you know, speaking to to and responding to questions from the selectmen. And and so we are following that. We've also made it very clear to D.S. that we, you know, as in a butter, we want to be involved, you know, fully involved in that that process. I mean, we don't it's not our decision, you know, but we certainly want the opportunity to understand what the impact is gonna be on the park.

Philip Bryce:
And also have, you know, how a full opportunity because of that if because of potential impacts in order to be able to in order to be able to to respond. I mean, we've been we initially we've been told now that respect to the quality of the lake. We've been we understand it's in a different watershed than the lake. And so what the company has. Yeah, that's what that that is what the company has said. And that's something that we, you know, we'll be following up with to say, well, what's going on there? Is there is there is there something going on here? And it is not only the park, we're not only thinking about the park, it is conferring today, but we're thinking about, you know, there's been talk in the past about, well, that we want to have a campground, you know, at that park again, too, because because campgrounds work really well when you have water access, because people, you know, then not just camping, they have they can enjoy the lake, swimming and kayaking and boating and fishing and all that. So so we have that. I can say. Yes, we are. We are. We are definitely following that.

Laura Knoy:
But it's not your decision. You can say I have concerns, as you know, someone who's on the lake, but it's not your decision. It's up to the town.

Philip Bryce:
Well, it's up to. It would be up to DES. to permit it. I said then the town can take its other action. Gotcha as well. I know that when the when the company was proposing to change the boundary lines and it would have impacted our status as in a buffer and notifications, we went up and expressed our concern about that. And as a result, we're we are going to be receiving notifications as in a butter. So we've been very engaged.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Tom, thank you very much for that call. Chris writes in from Bow Why don't New Hampshire residents receive a discount rate since we fund through taxes? I spend a lot of time in the White Mountains. Parking lots are full of out of staters. If I have to take the shuttle, why am I paying the same as someone from Massachusetts? A couple of things to pull out there. Their director, Bryce. First of all, White Mountains. That's the White Mountain National Forest. Again, that's not you guys. Right. But you do have Franconia, not State Park, which is in the White Mountain, was out in the middle of confusion. So I understand. Yeah.

Philip Bryce:
You know, I would absolutely love it if our state parks were free for everyone. And in some states, that's the case. But we have to pay for. We have to have a source of revenue. It's very hard for natural resource having formerly been state forest or very hard for natural resource agencies to compete, compete for general funds with all the other demands that are on the other agencies providing other public services. And so, you know, we're self-funded. So. So we have to have you know, people have to pay. And what we offer for New Hampshire residents for getting into our day use parks is the state parks play, you know, for eighty five dollars.

Philip Bryce:
You know, I have a play a lot of actually all of a lot of our staff have plates. We've gone from 2012 about eight hundred eight or nine hundred plates to over ten thousand state park plates now. And it's just it warms my heart every time I see one on the road. I wish there is some way I could, you know, tell people how grateful we are for that, because it provides it's a good value. You know, if you go to parks a lot and it and it particularly when you consider that, you know, their beach parks like South Beach out at Hampton is like 15 dollars. So how many times do you do you need to go to pay for your plate?

Philip Bryce:
But it also supports provides a sustainable source of revenue for the park system. We are we are going to be looking at redoing our feed package and we are talking about, you know, increasing the rates for out-of-state. You know, one of the reasons was that the rates were the same as is New Hampshire is so dependent upon the tourism industry that the logic was, well, you know, we just charge the same for everybody because we wanted to we don't want to discourage our visitors.

Philip Bryce:
About half of our visitors. To our day, use parks are from Massachusetts. But we need to take another look at that now going forward and seeing, you know, seeing and go through the, you know, reach out to our public and then go through the legislative process to have art, to look to see if that's OK, if that's a good idea, particularly also for camping.

Laura Knoy:
So when Chris says I pay through my taxes, partly that's not correct. Director Bryce. Right. Because if you don't go to a state park, you're not going. You're funded through user fees. If you don't go, you're not paying.

Philip Bryce:
Out of all of our, you know, given our Trails Bureau, Franconia Notch, our day use parks out of our something like over 30 million dollar budget about, you know. There's the capital budget, which is, you know, maybe 5 6 million over biennium, and that million is from the January run.

Laura Knoy:
So that is taxes.

Philip Bryce:
So that is that is tax dollars. Although sometimes there's other sources of funds like that go in. Like the meter fund, you know, was going to. So not all the time is that tax dollars was predominantly tax dollars. And then our historic sites is funded, but most of our budget is funded by the. The fee that somebody pays to get into the park.

Laura Knoy:
The people who show up. So if you don't show up, you're not paying.

Philip Bryce:
Right. And a lot of our like the flume, which is our our big moneymaker. If you walk the flume and you can argue, well, it's it's so expensive that New Hampshire residents can't go. But if you go, it's like an international visitors. You know, people come from all over the world to visit to visit that site. And we wanted to continue to make sure that our that we're not charging so much that we're discouraging, you know, discouraging our tourists to this day.

Philip Bryce:
But to his other point, it sounds like you're saying you're open to possibly charging out-of-state is a little bit more.

Philip Bryce:
We're going to.... That's one of the things coming up. Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Let's take another e-mail. Tom says Director Bryce and his team are to be commended for their stewardship of the New Hampshire park system. Many of our citizens do not appreciate the enormous economic engine that the parks in New Hampshire represent in our regional economy. In a state known for its fiscal prudence, the revenue generated by tourism and the resulting rooms and meals tax is significant and important. Would Director Bryce care to comment on how his department's being treated by the New Hampshire legislature in terms of the resources they need to maintain and invest in this important economic research? I feel like you've already addressed that, but go ahead.

Philip Bryce:
Our elected officials, whether it's the governor and council or our R or our legislators, have been in my tenure. They've been extraordinarily supportive. For example, we went to fiscal committee a few years ago to request even though we have all this deferred maintenance. We had this unique art opportunity up at Franconia Notch to purchase the 400 acre Lafayette Brook tract. So we went to fiscal to say, you know, can we can we do this? You know, with over a million dollars, there was some donation from the landowner, but it took you know, it increased the park 6 percent, but increased our flat ground by 30 percent. And and, you know, the timeshare chairman Kirk and the committee, they asked really hard questions, but ultimately they supported that acquisition. And that sets the park system up in, you know, way into the future. So between our statutes, their support for our budget, the capital, you know, they they said they fully supported our request for our budget for parks, which we're extraordinarily grateful for. And and also the capital funding. We are we are we are very fortunate to have the support of our elected officials to the, you know, the way we have.

Laura Knoy:
Thank you, Tom, for the e-mail. And getting back to Chris again in Bow, who wrote about, you know, why New Hampshire residents should pay the same as everybody else. There's been some controversy over whether senior citizens should get in free to state parks. What's the latest there, Director Bryce?

Philip Bryce:
Well, we took a couple of tries at that a couple of years ago.

Philip Bryce:
And it was it was one of the times that there was an editorial that seniors should pay, like for skiing at Cannon. There was editorial in the Concord Monitor and the union and they and the Union Leader and they agreed. And so what did they say? They both thought, yes, they should. So do seniors ski for free or during the week they seek ski for free at Cannon Land. And it's it's an interesting when I go back to I'd love everybody to be able to ski for free, to go to our parks for free. But if every if you know that that two dollars that child pays to get into a park is really, really important because, you know, it adds up. And if everybody supports our parks financially, we don't have to increase the rate. So they're not available to fit to other families. And so, yes, you know, senior discounts. Absolutely. I'm not talking about not having discounts for senior, but free access. You know, it's it's you know, we're living so at 65, we're living 12 years longer. So it's like granting free access. You know, back in 62, I think when that law passed to, you know, 53 year olds, you know, we're living 12 years longer.

Philip Bryce:
And and the and the seniors today are in as good a financial position relative to other families, student kids. And so it's really, really hard. You know, it's really hard for me. And hopefully at some point the future, the legislature will say, you know, let's do something. Increase the age, charge something and allow the parks to charge something. So that's that's one that's sitting out there.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Philip Bryce, before the show, we ask people on Facebook what their favorite state park was. I just want to read a couple of them because it's great. We heard from a lot of people best loves. Pisca Over in the Monadnock Region. John loves Miller State Park in Peterborough. Beth loves Umbagog State Park in Errol. Beautiful place, lots of loons there. And a lot of people wrote in about Pillsbury State Park in Washington. So that's one of the sort of unsung, lesser known. State parks in New Hampshire, do you want to just take a second and tell us about a lesser known, less visited park that you want people to know about?

Philip Bryce:
Well, the one the one where we have a couple of projects going on, the restoration of the Bear Hill 4-h camp making available to the public. But the other one is the Coleman the lodges at Coleman State Park.

Laura Knoy:
Okay. We will leave it at there and we'll look that up online on your Web site. Thank you very much for being with us, Dr. Rice. Really appreciate it. This is The Exchange on NPR.

The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of NH PR, its board of trustees or its underwriters. If you'd liked what you heard, spread the word. Give us a review on Apple podcasts to help other listeners find us. Thanks.