An 81-year-old New Hampshire man known to locals as “River Dave” has been arrested for trespassing again after he returned to live on land he had previously been told to vacate and was arrested last summer after he refused to leave.
David Lidstone, a self-described hermit, was arrested in July for accusations that he was squatting in a cabin on land owned by a separate Vermont man, saying the man’s father gave permitted him to live on the land nearly 30 years prior, but nothing official was put into writing.
Lidstone was arrested again in December for returning to the same land and converting a shed, which survived the August fire that destroyed the cabin he was previously living in, into a small home with a wood-burning stove.
When Lidstone was arrested in July, he received significant online support including over $200,000 in donations to help him start a new life on different land.
The fire that destroyed the cabin was determined to be an accident by Canterbury Fire Chief Michael Gamache. He said the men dismantling the cabin turned off solar panels that still had power running through them and used a power saw to cut through metal supports holding the panels to the roof, either of which could have caused the sparks that started the fire.
The day after the Aug. 4 fire, Lidstone was released from prison as a judge ruled he would have little incentive to return to the same land after the cabin burned down. Lidstone reportedly returned to the land in November and began living in the shed for weeks before his Dec. 14 arrest.
Lidstone, who was grateful for the support, had secured temporary housing as he figured out where to live next and believed that he could not go back to being a hermit.
But he returned to the site in Canterbury in late November, turning the wood shed into a home. He was arrested and faces a court hearing in March.
“Sometimes, you have to stand up for what is right,” Lidstone told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the site on Tuesday. “I’m 81, I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Lidstone is a logger by trade who chopped his firewood and grew his food in the woods along the river. The property, undeveloped and mostly used for timber harvests, has been owned by the same family since 1963.
In the summer, he was jailed on a civil contempt sanction and was told he’d be released if he agreed to leave the cabin following a property dispute that goes back to 2016. The landowner, 86-year-old Leonard Giles, of South Burlington, Vermont, wanted Lidstone off the property.
“We’ll let the court address it,” Lisa Snow Wade, an attorney for Giles, said Tuesday of Lidstone’s arrest.
Back in the summer, both sides agreed to arrange for Lidstone to collect his cats and chickens and remaining possessions at the site. Lidstone also was given permission to hire a surveyor to give him “peace of mind,” Judge Andrew Schulman said. As of Tuesday, Lidstone said he was unable to get someone to come out to survey the land yet.
“What can I say, Dave is where he is happiest the most,” Jodie Gedeon, a kayaker who has known Lidstone for years, posted on Facebook . “He loves to be in nature and what you’d call a free bird. … We are still planning to build or purchase a home in the spring.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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