III. Local Support
Local support for the designation of the Ashuelot River into the River Management and Protection Program is strong. In June 1991, a group of local citizens met with the state Rivers Coordinator and made the decision to pursue nomination of the entire Ashuelot River. All towns were invited to participate in the nomination process. All but two of the ten river towns (Lempster and Sullivan) participated through active working groups. Formed as the Ashuelot River Nominating Committee, these groups met jointly at advertised monthly public meetings. A total of 45 citizens participated in the work groups.
Three formal public meetings were held on the draft nomination through the watershed: Winchester on June 30, 1992, Keene on July 1, 1992, and Marlow on July 2, 1992. Letters were written to planning boards, conservation commissions, and selectmen inviting them to the meetings; notices were placed in the local papers; and ad announcements were posted throughout the watershed. The public reacted in favor of the draft nomination and expressed no opposition at the public meetings.
In April 1992, riverfront property owners were surveyed using a questionnaire modeled on that suggested in the River Nomination Guidebook. Seventeen percent of the landowners responded to the survey. Respondents indicated that they value the natural beauty, recreation, wildlife and waterfowl habitat, wetland ecosystems, open space, and the free-flowing character of the Ashuelot River. Ninety-three percent indicated that the river contributes to the quality of life in the community. Eighty-six percent of the respondents believe that the Ashuelot River is worthy of designation and that the local government should take action to protect the river in their community.
In addition to the support mentioned above, 11 area businesses have demonstrated their approval of the process by donating over $10,000 to the nominating group for collecting the information, developing the nomination and sending out the questionnaires.