sign was posted to at a Milton Mills farm to
provide an example of an overdeveloped
neighborhood. Steve Drozell/Staff photographer
in Milton Mills points out need to protect
By NATE PARDUE
Democrat Staff Writer
MILTON ó Motorists driving past Branch Hill Farm on
Sunday afternoon may have been surprised to note the
start of construction of 24 single-family homes on
what was once a pristine stretch of land.
Project developers could be seen pounding posts
into the ground and mapping out roadways leading to
what they said would soon become four-bedroom suites
and multistory supermarkets.
And just past the neighboring forest stood towering
trees soon to be uprooted to make room for a
world-class golf course, fittingly known as Whispering
Of course, it was all just a joke.
The ruse, designed by Portsmouth artist Tim
Gaudreau, was all part of the inaugural Hoof-n-Wheeze
Among the Trees, a fund-raiser held to benefit two
local conservation groups ó Moose Mountain Regional
Greenways and The Wentworth Hunt.
Gaudreau designed the spoof subdivision as a way to
bring attention to the plight of conservationists who
seek to preserve land before it is purchased and used
for developments and multifamily housing.
Although Branch Hill Farm is already protected
land, Gaudreau said many other open spaces in the area
are not, generally leaving homeowners shocked and
surprised when subdivisions are suddenly built in the
fields around their homes.
"Our landscape is being developed at quite a rapid
pace," Gaudreau said. "We wanted people to react to
the visual impact of someone paving over beautiful
Along with the staged construction work, Gaudreau
sent out volunteers acting as salesmen to "pitch" the
development to startled horseback riders and mountain
bikers just looking for a peaceful afternoon with
Even Tracy Wagner, a volunteer at the farm, was
taken in by the practical joke.
"I tried to be really polite to her until she
looked at me and told me they were going to build a
golf course," Wagner said of one of the "salesmen." "I
couldnít believe it."
Along with getting people together for a day of
hiking, horseback riding, and biking, the event was
also designed to bring attention to the work of the
two conservation groups.
Moose Mountain Executive Director Brad Anderson
said his group has worked for four years to purchase
and connect protected lands into contiguous blocks in
communities such as Middleton, Brookfield, New Durham
"Itís important to be aware of the risks of waiting
too long to conserve land before it is too late,"
Through donations of cash, land or easements,
Anderson said places such as Branch Hill Farm can be
maintained and used for outdoor recreation.
Todd Balf of Beverly, Mass., was one of the many
who came to the farm to enjoy a day of mountain biking
while recognizing a good cause.
"I think you generally donít have events like
this," Balf said, joking that horseback riders and
bicyclists do not typically mingle with one another.
"We donít understand each other all that well."
The event also featured a silent auction, live
music and pumpkin painting.
Democrat Staff Writer Nate Pardue can be reached at
332-2200, Ext. 5021, or