John Cotton Receives Kim Ayers Environmental Award

Recognizes work with water, wetlands, and/or wildlife

By Tina Cotton
John Cotton holds his framed award certificate, and the plaque that will be displayed at Town Hall is on the floor with John’s name inscribed as the latest awardee of the Kim Ayers Environmental Award. Next year the award will be presented as the Kim Ayers/John Cotton Environmental Award. Jeff Hayes, the executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC) is on the left, John Cotton in the middle, and John Ayer, the executive board chair of the LRPC is on the right. Caption: Tina Cotton. Photo: Peabody Place.

John Cotton, known as Mr. Geology by the Lakes Region Planning Commission and Mr. Groundwater of New Hampshire when he was interacting with the public before retirement, is well qualified to be the recipient of the Kim Ayers Environmental Award. He is a resident of Andover and owns land and a couple of rustic cabins in a cove on Lake Winnisquam in Meredith. The award is bestowed upon a person who has consistently worked to maintain and improve the environmental quality of the region.

His background includes assisting in the mapping of glacial deposits in Greenland and working on a variety of water resource projects for the US Geological Survey (USGS). Some of these included developing the first groundwater wells for the Cape Cod National Seashore, a hydrologic atlas of groundwater levels in the Boston peninsula, and a statewide New Hampshire reconnaissance of stratified drift (sand and gravel surficial deposits) aquifers. 

The resulting reconnaissance maps became known as the Cotton maps that are cited in state statutes. These aquifer maps were further refined with material logs from drillers and depths, as well as commentaries specific to municipalities and groundwater recharge, discharge, and quality.

After he retired from the USGS, he joined the Solid Waste Management Bureau of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services where he was involved with landfill closures. These closures have the potential of contaminating groundwater and wetlands. Oversight was necessary to have landfills properly lined, covered, and monitored for many years. 

John continued to monitor Andover’s landfill as a volunteer until the past few years. In addition, after retirement, he volunteered to map and advise other mappers of surficial geology on a topographic quadrangle basis and resolve contact line differences between maps before they were digitized and combined to create a state surficial map. He was also one of several leaders on a field trip examining the surficial geology along the Merrimack and Pemigewasset Rivers in the Lakes Region area.

John was the Andover town representative and on the executive board of the Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC) for many years. He also served on the broadband committee. The LRPC honored him with a framed certificate of the Kim Ayers award acknowledging his service. A plaque was presented to the Town with the names of past recipients that will reside in the Town Hall until the next time the award is made. The last time the award was given was in 2015.

This award is given annually by the Lakes Region Planning Commission in memory of B. Kimball Ayers, Jr. who faithfully and persistently worked to maintain and improve the environmental quality of the Lakes Region in New Hampshire. Like Kim Ayers, the award recipients have been active in one or more of the following areas: water quality of the lakes and of the groundwater, the preservation of wetlands, and the wildlife habitat of the region.

The recipient should be a person who lives in and has made a major voluntary contribution to the environmental quality of the Lakes Region. Particular considerations include, but are not limited to, environmental education; a key role initiating and carrying through an on-going project; emphasis on water quality; intergovernmental cooperation, i.e., coordination between municipalities or between state and local governments.

The only other Andover recipient of this award was Betty Bardsley when she was a legislator in 1990. At that time she was on an environmental committee and kept calling John for information relating to water issues.

The LRPC has renamed the award the Kim Ayers/John Cotton Environmental Award, which will be presented next June to a worthy recipient.