Group works to clean up brush at Hannah Dustin Memorial site


SCA New Hampshire Corps at Work

Trevor Nelson stood on the Hannah Dustin Memorial site island Thursday morning and looked through the trees lining the island, out to the Merrimack River near its convergence with the Contoocook River. The view from this location – a historic site that has become overgrown – is greatly improved from when he first visited the site last weekend.

Nelson is a member of the Student Conservation Association New Hampshire Corps, a division of AmeriCorps, who has been working with a group in Boscawen this week to improve the area along the river.

The “main goal was to make a view from the bridge,” he said, standing on the island while looking toward the highway.

The five-member SCA NH group worked at the site Sunday through Thursday, cleaning the land, removing invasive species of plants, cutting trees and increasing the visibility of the island from the main road.

“This is a problem area, has been for many, many years,” said Ben Wilson, director of the Bureau of Historic Sites of the Division of Parks and Recreation in the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.

In June, a Concord man, Jibril Mohamed, 34, and his stepson, Javier Gonzalez, 10, drowned while swimming in the river. Two years ago, a young man from Penacook, Daron Graham, 20, also drowned. Needles are occasionally found on the land near the river, Wilson said while walking at the site Thursday. Graffiti covers a railroad bridge that provides access to the island and a fence along it is torn and damaged.

The area is regularly patrolled by the town’s police department. Boscawen police officers patrol the area at least once during their shift, said Boscawen police Lt. Jason Killary.

“It’s a beautiful area but unfortunately we do get a bit of activity down there,” he said. The police see everything from marijuana use and underage drinking to drownings and a call for shots fired in August 2011.

“We’ve picked up a lot of drunks,” he said, adding that these are generally homeless people. “The most extreme we don’t see that often, but it does occur.”

But the area – which holds the controversial but historic monument of Hannah Dustin, a woman captured by Native Americans in the late 1600s – was not always problematic. When Wilson was a young student in Concord, field trips were organized to bring local students to visit the historic site.

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