Weeks State Park in Lancaster, NH is a little park with a lot of great attractions, and a lot of history. The park sits atop Mount Prospect and includes several hiking trails as well as a 1.5 mile scenic auto road up the mountain with some great views on the way. On the top of the mountain, the old stone fire look out tower offers an unbelievable 360 degree view and a look down on the Weeks summer home below – which is now a museum.
John Wingate Weeks was known for the Weeks Act of 1911. In the early 1900s and before, widespread ill-managed and wasteful logging was not only decimating the forests of New England, but through flooding and mudslides impeding the navigability of major waterways in the Eastern United States. With the effects of this destruction spreading and economical consequences becoming apparent, federal intervention was finally wanted to conserve and restore forests. Weeks, who was at the time a Massachusetts Congressman, wrote the Weeks Act to allow states to work together with the U.S. government to protect watersheds of navigable streams and rivers, which was signed into law on March 1st, 1911 by President Taft. The Weeks Act has allowed for the protection of over 20 million acres of forests east of the Mississippi including 48 national forests today. You can thank John Weeks for saving New England’s forests. Mr. Weeks also played a role in the passing of the Migratory Birds Act of 1913.
Mr. Weeks grew up in Lancaster and starting in 1908 he began accumulating land around the site of the old Mt. Prospect House hotel to built his estate on Mount Prospect – what is today Weeks State Park. The property was donated to the State of New Hampshire in 1941 by Weeks’ children as a memorial to their father.
The summer house is now a great little museum where visitors can take a guided tour to get more information about the Weeks family, the Weeks act, and visit an impressive collection of taxidermy birds – 250 species in one room!
Other things to do at Weeks State Park include the short Ken Jordan Nature Trail, a visit to the North Overlook, and the Thursday Evening Programs in the Great Room. The Nature Trail is a short series of trails through the woods around the house. With no real big ups or downs, this is a nice way to work up an appetite for a family picnic – there are shaded picnic benches accessible via the trail directly behind the house, and a couple more up by the fire tower with a great view. North Overlook is a little viewing platform accessible via a very short downhill extension of the Nature Trail. Though the view is good, it’s really about the same view you’d get from the fire tower, and the walk doesn’t seem significantly easier or more difficult than climbing the stairs in the tower. This might be a good place to get a view if the fire tower is too busy, but Weeks State Park doesn’t get really crowded very often.
I heard great things from frequent visitors about the Thursday Evening Programs held in the Great Room of the Weeks Summer House at 7:00pm, and though I wasn’t able to go to one, they sound interesting. The programs are usually free talks, presentations, or activities – topics on the schedule when I visited the park included New England nature photography, and a biographical presentation about the creators of the Appalachian Trail.