'River Dave,' banned from New Hampshire site, moves to Maine

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- A recluse named River Dave -- whose cabin burned down in the New Hampshire woods after spending nearly three decades on the property and was told to leave -- has found a new home in Maine.
David Lidstone, 82, has had windows installed and is working on installing a chimney in his rustic three-bedroom cottage, which he said is on property he bought.
"The foundation needs fixing," Lidstone, who received more than $200,000 in donations after the fire, said in a phone interview Monday. "It's just an old camp, but I like working (on it)."
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Lidstone, who grew up in Maine, declined to say where he lived or provide a contact for the landowner. A search of Maine County's deed registries revealed no recent transactions with Lidstone, but a cousin confirmed that he had moved to Maine, and a Facebook post included photos of Lidstone with a family member at his new home.
"He's working on putting it together, clearing land and making gardens, and he's got some chickens. He's moving on," said Horace Clark of Vermont, Lidstone's cousin.
Lidstone said he had to leave Canterbury, New Hampshire, because of his dispute with another landowner since 2016 over a patch of woods near the Merrimack River that Lidstone called home for 27 years. A judge issued a restraining order for him in 2017 after landowner Leonard Giles sued him, and another judge recently ruled that Lidstone would be fined $500 a day if he didn't move.
There were many delays in the case. Aside from the pandemic, Lidstone hasn't always appeared in court, and he's been in and out of jail as he resisted the restraining order.
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It was also difficult to serve Lidstone a summons to appear in court. There is no road access to the property, which leads approximately a mile and a half (2.4 kilometers) into the forest. In January, one of the trial clerks slipped and fell down an embankment and injured himself trying to reach Lidstone, according to a complaint filed by Giles' attorney.
In March, a judge said Lidstone could face a daily fine if he didn't leave the area by April 11. The judge ruled that Lidstone would also have to pay part of Giles' legal fees. Separately, Lidstone is facing a trespassing charge in connection with the property.
Giles, 87, of South Burlington, Vermont, died in July. It wasn't immediately clear if his death would change the status of the case. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Lidstone said he was sad to hear Giles had died. "I didn't mind the old man," he said.
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But he seems to be embracing his new life.
"I have all kinds of friends up here," he said. "I had friends every weekend all summer."
Last August, while Lidstone was in jail over the property dispute, his shack, which was fitted with solar panels, burned down when it was being dismantled at Giles' request. The local fire chief said the fire started accidentally.
Lidstone agreed to collect his remaining belongings. He had secured temporary housing while contemplating where to live next - he had offers - and believed he could not become a recluse again. But late last year he returned to live in a shed on the property that survived the fire, prompting further legal action.
"Sometimes you have to stand up for what's right," he said in January.
According to court records, the vacant lot has been owned by the Giles family since 1963 and is used for logging.
Lidstone, who represented himself in court, had claimed that the current owner's father gave his word - but nothing in writing - years ago to allow him to live there. He also doubted he was even on the property.

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