UNION LEADER | BEA LEWIS
A century ago, the Winnipesaukee River powered the mills that were the city’s lifeblood.
On Monday, it was announced that $180,000 in federal grant funds and a $250,000 donation from Franklin Savings Bank will help the city turn to the river again as an economic catalyst for the downtown.
Plans call for the creation of a whitewater paddling park on the Winnipesaukee River. The U.S. Department of Commerce grant will pay for engineering and design work.
The park is the brainchild of Marty Parichand, who runs Outdoor New England in Franklin, a shop that sells kayaking gear. He founded Mill City Park, a state-licensed non-profit to advance the idea.
“What you’re going to hear today is a story of progress and a story of change and it’s very, very exciting,” Parichand told those who gathered to hear the announcement beneath a tent in Trestle View Park.
The river drops more than 7.7 feet over a 1.25-mile section extending from Cross Mill Road in neighboring Tilton, to Trestle View Park, offering prime whitewater rafting.
“We believe this project will be transformative. Don’t forget that word, because it’s going to be exactly that,” said Charlie Chandler, who chairs the board of directors of Franklin Savings Bank.
After hearing multiple presentations about the project, the bank’s board voted unanimously to donate $250,000 toward making it become a reality; $125,000 has already been paid in.
“The vision brought for this project is a vision for the city of Franklin,” Chandler said.
Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs said the whitewater park will be the first in New England. He described it as one more quality-of-life asset to tout as the state continues its efforts to attract new residents at a time when the state has more job openings than it does workers. Tim Morrill was among those who attended Monday’s announcement.
“I came to show my support,” said Morrill explaining he enjoys kayaking and serves on the Mill City Park Board.
Morrill is the seventh generation of his family to call Franklin home. His grandfather ran the boiler room at the Stevens woolen mill, the last of the big mills. It closed in the 1970s and burned in the 1990s.
The giant iron wheel that is the centerpiece of Trestle View Park was the drive wheel that spun the belts that operated machinery throughout the mill, Morrill said.
He cited an example of the paddling park’s economic impact, saying he has friends in Ashland who come to Franklin to kayak. When it came time for them to replace some furniture, they bought it at Grevior Furniture because the Central Street store’s founder donated the land for Trestle View Park.
Interim Mayor Scott Clarenbach said the whitewater park is helping to renew the community’s sense of purpose and reenergize it.
“Today’s gathering is all about Mill City Park at Franklin Falls which is writing a new and exciting chapter by reutilizing the power of Franklin’s beautiful rivers for another prosperous period in our community’s long history,” he said.
The City Council was to vote during its Monday night meeting to formally accept the grant funds, Clarenbach said.