Hermit a no-show at disputed woodlot hearing, faces fines

Mar 30, 2022, 10:04 AM | Updated: Mar 31, 2022, 12:12 pm
FILE -- David Lidstone, 81, speaks with reporters during an interview on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in...

FILE -- David Lidstone, 81, speaks with reporters during an interview on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Boscawen, N.H. Lidstone, an off-the-grid New Hampshire hermit known to locals as "River Dave," had been living in a cabin in the woods along the Merrimack River, in Canterbury, N.H., for nearly three decades. A contempt of court hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, March 31, 2022, for Lidstone, accused of returning to live on property that he was ordered to stay away from. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former hermit in New Hampshire who went back to live on the wooded property he was ordered to leave realizes that his time there is drawing to a close — but he appears willing to keep fighting against his removal for now.

David Lidstone, who just turned 82, failed to show up for a contempt of court hearing Thursday in his tug-of-war with a Vermont landowner over a patch of forest near the Merrimack River that he’s called home for 27 years before his cabin burned down in an accidental fire.

Given his history of not appearing at hearings until he’s arrested, a judge on Thursday interpreted Lidstone’s no-show as a “seemingly deliberate” move and imposed costs to cover some of the landowner’s expenses. He said Lidstone would face a $500-a-day fine if he doesn’t leave the woodlot by April 11.

“I am not sure why he missed it,” said Jodie Gedeon, a kayaker who befriended Lidstone years ago. A phone message was left for Lidstone.

A judge issued an injunction in 2017 for “River Dave” — as Lidstone is known — to leave after the landowner, Leonard Giles, sued him. But there have been delays in the case: Besides the pandemic, Lidstone hasn’t always shown up for court and he’s been in and out of jail as he resisted the injunction.

Court records say the undeveloped property has been in the Giles family since 1963 and is used for timber harvests. Lidstone had claimed that years ago, the current owner’s father gave his word — but nothing in writing — allowing him to live there. He also has disputed whether he’s on the property in the first place.

“I have a great deal of sympathy for Mr. Lidstone,” Judge Andrew Schulman said Thursday, “but it is what it is.”

Giles’ attorney, Lisa Snow Wade, responded, “I look at it from a different perspective. The person who should have the sympathy here is Mr. Giles, who’s an 86-year-old veteran who’s been put through this. This is not that easy for him emotionally, or you know, financially.” She said he’s paid over $39,000.

Snow Wade had suggested a financial penalty for Lidstone, saying time in jail did not seem to change his behavior.

Earlier this month, Lidstone told The Associated Press “I know my days are numbered here,” a day after he was arrested and pleaded not guilty to a trespassing charge on the land. “Eventually I’m going to have to move.”

Lidstone, who became known as a friendly face to kayakers and an advocate for keeping the river clean, wasn’t sure what he would do next or where he would go, even though he’s had offers of other places to live and more than $200,000 in donations.

A leader of a group that has helped organize fundraisers for Lidstone posted on its “Help local legend David Lidstone ‘River Dave'” Facebook site that the page would be taken down, saying the group has done what it can for him.

“Dave has the means at this point to get a place for the remainder of his years and has a large local support group to reach out to when he needs us,” Darrin Apichell wrote.

Lidstone, a logger by trade, is accused of squatting in a rustic cabin he built on the land in Canterbury. The wooden, two-level A-frame cabin had solar panels, a small, cluttered kitchen with pots hanging from the ceiling, and curtains on the windows. His porch had a footstool with a base made of stacked beer cans. He converted a wood stove into a beehive. He attached lights, a mirror and a pulley for a clothesline to logs supporting the cabin. He also had a vegetable garden.

But while Lidstone was in jail over the property dispute, his cabin burned down in August as it was being dismantled at Giles’ request. The Canterbury fire chief said the fire was accidental.

Lidstone, who has been representing himself, was ordered to pick up his remaining possessions and leave. An outpouring of support followed. He didn’t think he could go back to being a hermit and lived with some friends. But by late fall, he had turned a shed that survived the fire into a makeshift home, outfitted with a solar panel and a wood stove.

Lidstone was given permission last year to hire a surveyor to give him “peace of mind,” Schulman said, but he has been unable to get someone to come out yet.

It hasn’t been easy to serve Lidstone with a notice to appear in court. There’s no road access to the property, which is about a mile and half (2.4 kilometers) into the woods. In January, one process server slipped, fell down an embankment, and injured his leg in his attempt to reach Lidstone at the woodshed, according to a motion filed by Snow Wade.

“Mr. Lidstone has been painted as a sympathetic figure in the media because he is an 81-year-old veteran wanting to live a romanticized life off-the-grid,” another plaintiff’s motion from December said. “That does not excuse his conduct of returning to Mr. Giles’ land, again, and again, and again.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Starbucks leader grilled by Senate over anti-union actions

Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced sharp questioning Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
1 day ago
FILE - The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public H...
Associated Press

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan; here’s what it means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, the first over-the-counter opioid treatment.
1 day ago
FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
2 days ago
Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Na...
Associated Press

Nashville shooter who killed 6 drew maps, surveilled school

Three children were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Nashville on Monday, hospital officials said.
3 days ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Associated Press

Police: passenger pulled jet’s emergency slide before LAX to SEA flight

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight out of Los Angeles International Airport was detained for triggering the plane’s emergency slide prior to takeoff, authorities said.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Hermit a no-show at disputed woodlot hearing, faces fines