"River Dave" after release from jail

David “River Dave” Lidstone is pictured near the banks of the Merrimack River in Boscawen after his release from the Merrimack County jail in August.

Members of a Quaker church in Canterbury say they are unable to offer “River Dave” Lidstone the opportunity to build his new home on their property along the Merrimack River, citing local zoning issues.

The topic was discussed Sunday during the monthly business meeting of the Concord Friends Meeting, said Mark W Barker, co-clerk of the Concord Monthly Meeting of Friends.

“Friends shared thoughts, ideas, and concerns as we struggled with a lengthy process of spiritual discernment,” said Baker in a statement issued late Sunday. “We are not able to offer Dave the opportunity to build on our land for a number of reasons, including zoning obstacles and the purposes for which our land was given to us.”

The church property is adjacent to the 73-acre woodlot where Lidstone lived for 27 years until July, when a judge ordered him jailed after repeatedly refusing a court order to vacate the land.

Lidstone disputed the ownership of the property, saying a previous owner had granted him lifetime permission to live there.

The judge released Lidstone the day after his cabin burned to the ground. Support poured in for Lidstone from across the country, including a $180,000 donation from high-tech billionaire Alexander Karp.

Lidstone’s friend and advocate Jodie Gedeon of Boscawen estimates the 81-year-old hermit has received over $250,000.

Earlier this month, Rich Kleinschmidt, also a co-clerk of the Concord Friends Meeting, told a Union Leader reporter that building a home on the property would require heavy equipment, and a bridge would have to be built over a ravine. The town of Canterbury has zoned the church land for commercial use, Kleinschmidt said.

“In some ways, Dave having six figures is wonderful, but we’re facing a more complicated situation now,” Kleinschmidt said at the time.

Decisions by the group are not reached by consensus or compromise, but after open discussion and quiet prayer, with an outcome that feels in harmony with God’s will, he said.

Barker said his group cares about their neighbors.

“David Lidstone was our neighbor, living gently on land near our property,” said Barker.

“We rejoice in the outpouring of support that Dave has received in the past months after he was removed from the place he had lived for many years. After prayerful consideration, we have discerned that we cannot offer Dave a place to build on our property.”

Barker added if Dave or others “would find spiritual solace in visiting our property” during daylight hours, the Quakers would welcome them.

Attempts to reach Gedeon for comment on the group’s decision were unsuccessful Sunday night.