As a young child growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, Barbara Richter was lucky enough to walk through a small wood on her way to school every morning. It was often the best part of her day—so much so that she’d often show up late for school, delayed from exploring the woods on her way. She still remembers her mother yelling from the door: “don’t Dilly-dally, don’t be late.” “I could not help but dawdle—the smell of leaves in the fall, the whiteness of snow on tree branches, spring beauties covering the ground before the mayapples took hold,” reminisces Barbara. “Natural areas have always been my link to beauty and peace. I still love to dilly-dally in the woods.”
These childhood experiences provided the foundation for Barbara’s love of nature, and all of her free time is still spent outdoors: biking, swimming, hiking, skiing, gardening, enjoying nature. The majority of her career has focused on natural resource protection, working for the Monadnock Conservancy and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and now as the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions. Currently living in Keene with her husband Frank and their elderly dog, the couple spent many years raising their family a few miles north in Surry Village.
“I have two kids in college who spent their preschool years in Surry Village. I am grateful to my neighbors from Surry who allowed my children to be ‘freerange’,” she recalls. “It is an extraordinary place, where everyone knows their neighbors, watches out for each other’s children and where you will find excess zucchini on your front porch in the mornings. Even though we no longer live in Surry, we still ski along the old roads in winter, bike along them in summer and hike the mountain whenever we can.”
Waiting for the Right Moment
That mountain is Surry Mountain—a place rich with natural treasure, a vast expanse of forests, ponds and headwater streams. This 1,368-acre property is a critical piece of a 50,000-acre conservation puzzle The Nature Conservancy is working on piecing together in the Monadnock region—a resilient and connected landscape where people and nature can thrive, even in the midst of a changing climate. For decades, conservationists have been waiting—waiting for the right moment to protect Surry Mountain. Today, that moment has arrived.
“Surry Mountain was essentially the backdrop to my life as a young mother,” Barbara says. “Every day, I would tromp about the floodplain with my children exploring the area with Surry Mountain rising from the cornfield across the road. It is my belief that children need to explore nature and their surroundings, so we took to the fields and overgrown orchards in Surry every afternoon. For me it was a break from the chaos that comes from parenting young children. Nature dissipates the high energy of toddlers, and calm prevails.”
Surry Mountain: Creating a Lasting Legacy
For decades, The Nature Conservancy and local conservationists had been waiting for the right moment to protect Surry Mountain. Today, this incredible landscape is our 31st preserve in the Granite State. Visit the preserve.
When Barbara learned of The Nature Conservancy’s effort to protect that very backdrop, she leapt at the chance to support the project and protect the place that means so much to her. Surry Village is tucked in the flats of the Ashuelot River floodplain, with the mountain rising up out of the Sycamore floodplain. It is a dramatic landscape and the mountain defines the place. “To watch the moonrise above Surry Mountain is nothing short of magical,” says Barbara. “This special place needs to be protected.”
Corridors for Critters; Clean Water for Communities
Surry Mountain not only provides an aesthetic value to the surrounding towns, but also an important natural area filled with a diversity of natural resources, including nearly nine miles of frontage along seven headwater streams that will help ensure clean water for the city of Keene. The property also links to other protected lands, creating an extensive forested corridor for wildlife and climate resilience. “To know that it will be protected from development and will be a place for future generations to explore is an amazing thing,” Barbara notes. “Living in Surry Village was a wonderful part of my life and whenever I see that mountain, it fills my heart with delight. Surry Mountain is my anchor to joy.”
Barbara hopes that, by conserving this property, other families will continue to enjoy the beautiful view of Surry Mountain from Surry Village, and that the top of the mountain remains a place for wildlife, critical habitat, wetlands, rock ledges and exploration. “To preserve a place is not easy—so much changes; so much pressure from development and shortsighted demands on resources” says Barbara. “To know that the Nature Conservancy will take care of this unique mountain top is reassuring. I hope Surry Mountain remains a place of joy for years to come.”