Former Mayor Danderson Returns for Dedication of Visitors Center in His Honor

By Barbara Tetreault
Berlin Daily Sun

June 12, 2013


BERLIN – Standing in the newly named Robert Danderson Visitor Center yesterday, Mayor Paul Grenier recalled when then Mayor Danderson first talked to him about turning the property into a state park for ATVs.

“I told him I think you’re nuts but I’m not getting in the way,” Grenier said.  Less than 10 years later, the Jericho Mountain State Park contains 7,800 acres with about 80 miles of ATV trails.

“What you see here is the dream of one person,” said Grenier, describing how Danderson used his political connections and tenacity to push his idea forward.  It was in 2004 and the city and region were economically struggling from the closure of area paper mills. Grenier said Danderson was looking at all options to revive the local economy and create jobs.

Dillon Logging had 7,200 acres of land for sale and the city was frustrated in its efforts to develop a campground at Jericho Lake. Danderson had mountain biked and kayaked on the property and saw it as an undeveloped jewel. He also knew the state was looking for a location to create riding for ATV enthusiasts who wanted to see some return for their registration fees.

Danderson brought then DRED Commissioner Sean O’Kane up to see the property and worked with the Bureau of Trails to promote the project.  “It all started with you,” said Trails Bureau head Chris Gamache, who joked Danderson “called me daily, sometimes hourly.”

Gamache noted this weekend will mark the grand opening of the 1,000-mile Ride the Wilds interconnecting trail that will allow riders to travel from the park as far north as Pittsburg.  Danderson, who now lives in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., said he was amazed to see the change in the park since he left the area two years ago.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s not only my dream now. It’s the entire region’s dream.”  

Grenier said Danderson was also responsible for attracting the federal prison to Berlin and pushing for the Burgess BioPower biomass plant. He said the three projects are part of Danderson’s legacy in Berlin. Danderson served four terms as mayor and then served two years on the council.

Danderson said he drove into the city on Route 110 and was pleased to see the removal of the old houses as work gets under way on the second phase of the Route 110 bypass. He also marveled at the construction of the biomass plant.

“I’m glad to see the ball hasn’t been dropped. It’s going through the goal post,” he said, of the various city projects under way.  Also making remarks at the dedication ceremony were former state Senator John Gallus, current state Senator Jeff Woodburn, and Brian Bresnahan, representing U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

Joining Danderson for the ceremony were his wife Martha and mother, Carol McFarland of Chester.  Danderson revealed his love of politics has not gone away. He said he is planning a run for mayor in his new home community.


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