Private wilderness playgrounds are the future for quality outdoor recreation. At least that is what William Altenberg, Jr., is betting on. In northern New Hampshire, he leases 24,000 acres of timberland from the International Paper Company and offers hiking, biking, kayaking, and backcountry skiing to paying customers. He is building lodges, yurts, and a 100-mile network of trails on the property. He charges admission, as well as fees for lodging, camping, guiding services, and other amenities.
Altenberg sees his business as meeting the needs of several groups. Timber companies are seeking ways to increase revenues on their vast holdings, and public agencies are hard-pressed to meet the growing demand for outdoor recreation. Meanwhile, lots of people are willing to pay for a quality experience in the great out-of-doors. That is the product Altenberg is selling.
He is negotiating similar lease arrangements in the Bitteroot Mountains of Montana and Idaho, the Cascades in Washington, and western Pennsylvania. By the end of 2000, he expects to have 2 million acres of land available to recreationists who will pay to play.