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The Legacy of Bristol’s ‘Slim’ Baker

Thomas P. Caldwell - September 23, 2013





Round Top

A view of Little Round Top and the village of Bristol as it appeared in the mid-1900s when the Slim Baker Foundation was created.

Before Everett “Slim” Baker became a conservation officer in New Hampshire, he had spent time as an oil man and silver miner in New Mexico, a riverboat worker in midwest, a cowhand in Arizona, a forest ranger in Wyoming, and a salmon fisherman in Alaska.

Yet it was as a conservation officer that he had become a respected member of the Bristol community — so much so that friends, upon hearing that he had cancer, initiated an effort 60 years ago to create a fitting memorial in the form of an outdoor education center. Today, the Slim Baker Foundation for Outdoor Recreation maintains a 135-acre property with lodge, woods, and hiking trails, providing a place for youths to study nature, scouts and campers to learn about the outdoors, and adults to help track the flights of migratory birds.

Slim Baker served as a conservation officer for the state for two decades, beginning in 1933, with a brief break during World War II. Standing at 6’3” he could be an imposing figure despite his slight build; but he was firm only when necessary, more likely to explain the fish and game laws than to take enforcement action. He wanted people to understand and respect the laws, and those who knew him describe him as being always courteous, dignified, fair, and friendly.

Slim Baker

Everett ‘Slim’ Baker in his conservation officer’s uniform.

The World War II Navy veteran who had been born in Boscawen in 1910 earned a degree in Forestry from the University of New Hampshire  and he used his knowledge to help children learn about conservation and to appreciate the outdoors.

The late John Greenan Jr. once recalled when, as a young boy, he had his first fishing experience. He said Slim recognized that young boys could get bored very quickly if they didn’t catch anything, so with his inside knowledge of where the state had recently stocked the rivers with trout, Slim took young John to a spot where he was able to catch several fish that day. It was not until much later that he learned that fishing was not always that easy, and that Slim had set him up to get a good catch.

Slim loved to tell stories and frequently spoke at the meetings of various organizations. He and his wife, Lucy, also held an annual wild game dinner with Slim providing everything from woodchuck and squirrel to bear and moose. Lucy was able to cook the meat in such a way that everyone — kept in the dark as to what they were eating until after they had consumed it — found all of the food to be delicious.

Because of his interest in teaching about conservation, Slim always dreamed of an outdoor recreation area for instruction in camping and wildlife. When people learned that he was ill, his friends settled upon the creation of the Slim Baker Foundation as a way of paying tribute to a great man.

Reba Follansbee Hipson whose family also had donated land for Wellington State Park in Alexandria agreed to deed over a 125-acre tract of land around Little Round Top for the conservation area. She made the deed out to the Bristol Federated Church with the understanding that it would lease the property to the directors of the Slim Baker Fund as long as they observed the original intent of the gift.

Slim was able to help plan the development of the site before his death in 1953 but the site was not cleared until 1954. The rustic lodge was built in 1955 and completed in the spring of 1956. Later that year, an adjacent 10-acre field was added to the property and the foundation cut a trail to the summit.

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point was created as a memorial to Dean Stephens who died at age 28 in an airplane crash. (Tom Caldwell Photo)

Another Bristol resident who loved nature, Dean Stephens, died in an airplane crash in 1958 at age 28 and his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Waldo Stephens, had the summit of Little Round Top developed as Inspiration Point in his memory. From Inspiration Point, one has views of downtown Bristol and the Pemigewasset Valley, as well as the mountains beyond.

Through the years, the Bristol Community Center (now Tapply-Thompson Community Center) has held its summer day camp program at the Slim Baker Area. The area scouts also use it; and the schools conduct nature walks.

Because Little Round Top is on a migratory route for birds, Inspiration Point provides an excellent location for the semi-annual bird census. Volunteers do counts of the various raptors such as hawks and eagles that pass overhead.

Sixty years after his death, Slim Baker’s dream lives on through the many people, old and young, who are able to hike, picnic, and study nature in a serene setting above Bristol village.

Raptor Watch

Inspiration Point on Little Round Top in Bristol offers excellent viewing of migratory birds. (Tom Caldwell Photo)

 

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