Forest Society North at the Rocks
A community gathering center. Four-season recreation. A center for conservation education. A tourism destination. A working forest and Christmas Tree farm. An outdoor event venue. A living history site. A resource for forest landowners.
(Above: The Carriage Barn before renovations began in 2022.)
This fall, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests will reopen our operations at The Rocks in Bethlehem as a new center for forest conservation, nature education and recreation, and community activities serving the greater North Country.
The Rocks is a beautiful 1,400-acre property, owned and managed by the Forest Society. Built as a working farm in the 1880s by John Jacob Glessner, a cofounder of International Harvester, The Rocks retains much of the grandeur of White Mountain retreats – exceptional period architecture, an Olmsted-designed garden, and a network of woodland trails that will soon reopen to the public year-round.
Since 1978, when descendants of the Glessner family donated The Rocks to the Forest Society, we have operated a vibrant Christmas tree farm and education center, and managed the property as a working forest. Some 14,000 people visit The Rocks each year to enjoy the spring wildflowers, experience maple syrup season from tapping to tasting, view wildlife, or admire the fall foliage . . . to participate in workshops on pruning apple trees, managing woodlots, or winter wildlife tracking . . . or to tour the gardens, take in the expansive mountain views, or choose their perfect Christmas tree.
In February 2019, a fire destroyed two historic buildings that were used for office space, programming and events, a holiday gift shop, and farm operations. In the wake of this terrible loss, we have had an opportunity to rethink the vision for this iconic North Country destination.
The renovation now in progress at The Rocks brings together its heritage as a working farm and center of innovation, with the Forest Society’s mission of protecting New Hampshire’s forests for the multiple uses of sustainable forestry, habitat conservation, recreation, and scenic beauty.
(Above: Construction continues at The Rocks in the historic Carriage Barn.)
This new Forest Society North will be headquartered in an 1884 Carriage Barn that is now being transformed into a net-zero energy efficient building, powered by solar and geothermal systems. A new hillside amphitheater, made from the granite foundation stones of former buildings on the site, now faces a breathtaking panoramic White Mountain view. With both indoor and outdoor classroom and event space, walking trails, the NH Maple Experience and Museum, and our working Christmas tree farm, there is much to explore here at the crossroads between Franconia, Littleton, and Bretton Woods.
To accomplish this vision, we need your help. The Forest Society launched a multiyear $8.5 million capital campaign to support the costs of renovation and replacement of facilities, and to establish a $2 million endowment. We are pleased to say that we have raised more than 80% of our goal, leaving $1.3 million yet to go.
We are now in the homestretch. The building is nearing completion, there is a buzz of excitement at The Rocks, and there is still time for you to make a meaningful contribution to help bring this ambitious effort to fruition. Your tax-deductible donation today will support the beautiful adaptive re-use of a unique farm building, the installation of solar and geothermal systems and new EV chargers, the creation of community meeting spaces and educational exhibits, and most of all, an investment in conservation and community in the region for present and future generations.
Conservation land – especially protected, connected, and sustainably managed forests – will forever remain essential to absorbing carbon, cooling our planet, safeguarding the quality of the water we drink, providing wildlife with habitat, and supporting our forest products economy and recreational activities.
We are dedicated to educating and activating the next generation of forest stewards and advocates. As part of our Forest Society North initiative, we are locating more of our staff in the northern part of the state, based at The Rocks. This includes land conservation, easement stewardship, land management and Christmas tree farm staff, along with new program and education positions. This will allow us to take on more conservation work in the north, from the north, such as our soon-to-be acquired 3,700-acre Mahoosuc Highlands property in Shelburne.
This project has come a long way since the dark winter night when fire changed the landscape we knew. Now we are preparing to launch a center that honors the past while introducing technology and innovation to serve the next century. We hope you will be a part of this new future by supporting the project. Thank you for considering a generous gift today!
For more information or to make a gift of stock or securities, please contact Anne Truslow, Vice President for Development, at email@example.com or (603) 224-9945. For the latest updates on construction at The Rocks, click here.