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Franklin bets on revitalization with new park

Franklin bets on revitalization with new park

Can people playing in a river help revitalize a struggling city? Can the recreational opportunities in and along a river actually improve the quality of life in and the public image of a city that’s lost its luster?

Franklin set for transformation

Franklin set for transformation

The Three Rivers City is poised for an economic revival through two major projects that will answer a longstanding need: attracting outsiders.

Two Franklin projects win CRDC grants

The Capital Regional Development Council, recently awarded a total of $10,000 to two separate initiatives aimed at reviving downtown Franklin.

Proposed Whitewater Park Poised to Transform Franklin Economy

NH Division of Economic Development | Lorna Colquhoun


The old adage says that “a rising tide floats all boats.”

In the City of Franklin, it is more apt to say “whitewater floats a new economy.”

This week, community members gathered alongside the Winnipesaukee River downtown to celebrate a project described as “transformative” for this former mill city, as two significant grants push the Mill City Park closer to reality.

The project received a $180,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Franklin Savings Bank is donating $250,000.

There are about 280 whitewater parks across the country, but this one will be the first in New England. More than that, says developer Marty Parichand, it is a catalyst that for boosting the city’s economy, generating $6.8 million of direct spending in the region.

The river runs through the heart of downtown, which once fed mills turning out wool cloth, hacksaws and hosiery. Thrill seekers will head to the city to run the Class II, III and IV whitewater and entrepreneurs can catch the wave of the new economy on the rise.

Projects like Mill City Park, Commissioner Taylor Caswell, of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, told those gathered in Trestle View Park, will draw more than visitors; it will draw visitors who turn into residents, drawn by the lifestyle and the opportunities in the Granite State.

“One of the biggest things for me is to be able to emphasize the fact that in New Hampshire, we have a community; we have recreation and we have quality of life for everybody,” he said. “In the big picture, it is absolutely crucial what you’re doing, not just for your community, but for the state as a whole, because that is what we are doing every day — telling the story of New Hampshire; telling the story of the quality of life and telling everyone how great it is here. This is one more piece we can put in our toolbox.”




Efforts to create New England’s first whitewater park got a double infusion of capital on Monday when Franklin Savings Bank pledged $250,000 and the Franklin City Council accepted the first portion of a $170,000 federal grant in support of the project.

Marty Parichand, owner of Outdoor New England, a shop that sells kayaking gear, had founded the nonprofit Mill City Park to promote the development of a whitewater park on the Winnipesaukee River.

The section of the river between Cross Mill Road in Tilton and Trestle View Park in downtown Franklin is a popular kayaking run, dropping an average of 77 feet per mile over the 1.25-mile distance.

“Kayakers already know this river,” Parichand said, “but this will bring other people to see it, as well.” Parichand said he had been seeking a federal Economic Development Association grant for preliminary engineering, and found there was a $25,000 shortfall in funds.

“I spoke with Ron Magoon [president and chief executive officer of Franklin Savings Bank] and said, ‘We have $5,000 in our bank account and are $20,000 short in making up the difference,” Parichand said. “He responded, ‘We’ve been working on our own to see how we could support the project, and we’re thinking of something much bigger.’”

During Monday’s ceremony, Charlie Chandler, chairman of the Franklin Savings Bank Board of Directors, said the board voted unanimously to give $250,000 in support of the project, of which $125,000 would be immediately available.

“This seed money will see that this project is transformative for Franklin,” Chandler said.
Once a booming mill town, Franklin today has many dormant mill buildings and the city has struggled to recover from the factory closings. Parichand sees the whitewater park as “the centerpiece of the largest adaptive reuse effort in Franklin’s history, turning the downtown into a vibrant micro-urban centerpiece.”

Acting City Manager Judie Milner said the Franklin City Council formally accepted $129,870 in grant and matching revenues on Monday night. The money represents the portion of funding available from the Fiscal Year 2017 federal budget, with the remainder of the $170,000 grant to come from the 2018 budget, which started Oct. 1, once that budget has been approved.

The federal grant will cover the cost of engineering, permitting, and survey work associated with the whitewater park, covering the lower 1,000-foot section of the river. A second phase would cover the upstream portion as far as Cross Mill Road.

“They’ll be taking pictures of what the river looks like underneath to plan the features of the whitewater park in the correct spots, and also take care of debris in the river from the factories,” Milner said.

The engineering work will use the strength of the river and the new features to create the volume needed for kayaking without having to adjust the flow level, she said.

The take-out area will remain in Trestle View Park, but there will be stadium seating for spectators, she said.

Franklin Savings Bank’s donation will support the construction of the whitewater park once the engineering is complete.

“This is an opportunity to change the tide in Franklin through outdoor recreation,” Parichand said. “We’ll reinvent ourselves.” He said the project presents a combined solution to Franklin’s problems. Interim Mayor Scott Clarenbach supported that notion in his comments during Monday’s ceremony. “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.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, compared Franklin’s effort to the recent revitalization effort in Littleton, which used recreation as a way to redefine the community.

“It is part of what we need as a state to attract new residents at a time when there are more job openings than there are workers,” he said.

Parichand said of the project, “We have the opportunity to create a downtown tourist attraction and recreational amenity that will be equally appealing to users and spectators, and there is no competition in the region.”

The project, he said, “is consistent with our motto as being ‘The Three Rivers City’ — the rivers got us here with the factories and mill buildings, and now we turn to them once again for our rebirth.”

Franklin paddle park plan gets $430,000 cash infusion


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.

New Commisioner: NH Entrepreneurship, workforce top list

New Commisioner: NH Entrepreneurship, workforce top list

"We need to rethink our vision of downtown. Look at Franklin. They have an organization there that’s been acquiring properties, not turning them into retail, but co-working spaces, restaurants, outdoor stores. They’ve applied for grants to study the construction of a new white-water rafting park, and they’ve got really good mountain bike trails. That stuff works..."

Franklin’s revitalization project picking up momentum

Franklin’s revitalization project picking up momentum

Concord Monitor | Elodie Reed

In his three decades of watching Franklin start and stop economic revitalization projects, Franklin Savings Bank President Ron Magoon said this time, something’s different.

“In 29 years, this is the first time there’s been all the right people at the table,” he said.

That includes city officials, local businesses, the nonprofit PermaCityLife and members of the public. Through collaborative efforts, new businesses have opened up downtown, an old mill building has been renovated for affordable housing, and plans have moved forward for a whitewater play park.

It was with confidence, then, that Franklin Savings Bank bought a quarter of the $400,000 in tax credits New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority awarded to the Franklin Business and Industrial Development Corporation in August.

Franklin Savings Bank made its investment in February. Bank of New Hampshire followed with a $25,000 purchase, and just recently, Eversource Energy bought up the remaining $275,000.

Now, that money will go toward facade improvements for buildings owned by PermaCityLife. They are slated to begin in July or August and last through the end of the year.

“There’s been so much deferred maintenance in these buildings,” Todd Workman, PermaCityLife’s executive director said. Buell’s Block, Shepard Block and 337 Central St. will all get a facelift, though through the above mentioned partnerships, the work has already begun.

Where once empty and boarded storefronts lined the bottom floor of Buell’s Block, new green-painted facades welcome visitors to a coffee shop and outdoor sports store.

Across the street at “Toad Hall,” the former art gallery is being renovated into a tavern – new paint covered the tin ceilings Monday, and the large windows will be replaced within the month.

All of these upgrades will continue with the CDFA tax credit money. More windows will be replaced in Buell’s Block, and the back of the building will have work done to make way for a brewery.

At 337 Central St., the three storefronts there will get “a complete redo,” Workman said.

This work is what moves PermaCityLife’s goals from planning to action, Workman said. And some of the organization’s permaculture ideas will become tangible, too: a “green roof” is part of the upgrade for 337 Central St.

When businesses with rooftop gardens, a tavern, shops and a fixed up city center are noticeable to those driving through, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said, Franklin becomes a place people want to be.

“People buy with their eyes,” she said. “To be able to see some visible changes to the buildings will be able to help change the perception.”

Workman added, “The stigma goes away and people start to have confidence in the project.”

Franklin has a number of long-held stigmas to overcome, but given all that’s already happened in the downtown, the community partners there are optimistic.

“We have a lot of momentum building,” Dragon said. Workman regularly receives referrals for small businesses wanting to move to Franklin, and tradesmen, business owners and organizations already in the community are getting involved, too.

From the Franklin Business and Industrial Development Corporation’s perspective, the hope is that in addition to retail businesses, a stronger downtown Franklin will attract a skilled workforce.

“We have a shortage of skilled labor,” FBIDC director Jim Aberg said. “It’s one thing to have the jobs offered in the industrial park, but as people say, where’s my wife going to shop, where are my kids going to school?”

It’s a future that seems a little closer, at least to Franklin Savings Bank’s Magoon.

“If it fails this time, it’s never going to happen – this is the best shot we have and have ever had,” he said. “I think everyone is truly optimistic this is going to happen. And it is happening.”