In Rye, NH on June 7th, the Mill City Park project was awarded the NH Planners Association 2019 Project of the Year. In a state with so many incredible projects and happenings, this is a tremendous honor.
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In Rye, NH on June 7th, the Mill City Park project was awarded the NH Planners Association 2019 Project of the Year. In a state with so many incredible projects and happenings, this is a tremendous honor.
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.”
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.
Rushing, choppy waters.
That was the backdrop for a portion of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s visit to Franklin on Thursday, when she toured local storefronts, learned about the city’s renewed focus on its rivers, and attempted to calm business leaders in a community facing the turmoil of steep funding cuts in the Trump administration’s proposed budget.
Shaheen stopped in at businesses set up with the help of Todd Workman and his group PermaCityLife, a nonprofit geared toward revitalizing the Franklin.
Workman has been driving to bring new businesses and younger demographics to the city of 8,500, and he said a core part of his group’s work has hinged on federal community development programs set to be slashed in the Trump budget plan.
“What we really rely on is the economic development toolbox that’s in place right now,” he told Shaheen. “There are very specific target programs that work, and they generate more money than they cost the federal government.”
Workman said PermaCityLife’s efforts have been aided by federal money from Community Development Block Grants, the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development and the Economic Development Administration.
These programs all face cuts with the new Trump administration budget, according to Workman.
“This city is on the rise,” he said. “We have the tools we need to do it, but some of those tools are in jeopardy.”
Shaheen applauded PermaCityLife’s efforts and stressed her commitment to maintaining funding for federal programs facing cuts.
“I’m here to say we can’t let these efforts go away; they’re really important not just to Franklin or New Hampshire, but communities across this country,” she said. “I’ve had a chance to see these programs – as both governor and senator – and I know what kind of difference they make, and I’m going to do everything I can so we don’t see the cuts that are coming out of the Trump budget.”
Workman stressed the importance of federal funding to continue the growth in Franklin, which has seen 16 new businesses spring up in the last year and a half, he said.
Key to Franklin’s revitalization efforts is not just driving new enterprise, but drawing a more business-friendly demographic to the city. Marty Parichand, the owner of Outdoor New England and the architect of a plan for a new white-water park, said he’s trying to do his part.
Parichand said his white-water park would help infuse the city with life and a younger population.
“The demographic is perfect for a city that struggles with millennials,” he said. “The core group of white-water kayakers – 60-70 percent – are less than 30 years of age. These boats are not cheap, and they have disposable income.”
The push for changing demographics in Franklin is real. Twenty-four percent of its residents live in poverty and 60 percent of public school students received free or reduced-price lunch, according to City Manager Elizabeth Dragon.
On top of that, the cuts in federal funding will hinder continued development, Dragon said, a bitter truth in city that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 15 percent margin in the 2016 election.
Shaheen’s tour made stops at Colby-Sawyer College’s Sustainable Learning Initiative building, Franklin Clothing Company, coffee shop and restaurant The Franklin Studio, Toad Hall Art Bazaar, and Outdoor New England, all which said they started business in Franklin due to Perma City Life’s efforts.
Acadia LeBlanc, a rising junior at Colby-Sawyer, talked about studied sustainability initiatives in the community while helping to teach water conservation at Franklin High School.
“It’s so cool that we have our own space here, we were transporting all our stuff from New London, which is 30 minutes away,” she said. “It’s awesome because we get to build this relationship with Franklin.”
With white-water rafters traveling down the Winnipesaukee River behind him, Parichand said the ability to fuse his passion with revitalization efforts for the city was a great privilege.
“My passion is to influence a community on the things I hold dear, which is white-water kayaking,” he said. “Revitalizing a town, or helping to revitalize a town, through a sport I’m passionate about is the best case for me.”
Franklin has formally decided to incorporate the Winnipesaukee River into the city’s economic future. City councilors voted last week to amend the 2008 “Franklin Falls Mixed Use Tax Increment Finance District” to include a large chunk of city-owned land along the river banks. The district, now just over 99 acres, already covers Franklin’s dense downtown area on Central Street and the property where shuttered mill buildings still sit.
In a tax increment finance (TIF) district, property taxes on future assessed value are set aside for redevelopment projects within that area. Because the city owns the riverbank land, however, that property isn’t taxable and doesn’t bring in additional money.
At least one city councilor said for that reason, the area shouldn’t be included in the district.
But as the city looks for more public-private partnership projects to boost its downtown, the river is the site for one of its promising efforts: a whitewater play park.
Outdoor New England whitewater retail and service business owner Marty Parichand came up with the idea. Over the summer, he proposed taking the 9.3-acre overgrown former mill site and installing whitewater paddling amenities there.
He’s also hoping to build a bike pump track, historic mill ruins trails, a community garden, and an event space as part of the “Mill City Park at Franklin Falls.”
Parichand has promoted the project as a way to help the city as a whole. A New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development impact analysis shows a facility like that could bring to Franklin $6.8 million in direct spending on an annual basis.
In addition to drawing in visitors to eat, stay and spend money in Franklin, Parichand said the sports themselves – whitewater rafting and mountain biking – are opportunities for vulnerable children to have positive experiences.
“Anyone with a kayak and a bike and pair of legs would be able to enjoy this land,” he said.
Parichand noted kids are also positively impacted by the economic growth aspect, which could create more tax dollars for education – something Franklin desperately needs. The school district there had to enact a budget freeze in the fall and consistently struggles to fully fund its education costs.
“In other locations whitewater parks have been so successful . . . they’ve opened new schools and they’ve named them after the whitewater park,” Parichand said.
At this point, Parichand recognizes he has a big project on his hands. But it seems to fit well with the place he’s trying to do it in.
“I think the first master plan I saw . . . it said, ‘the city needs to connect people to the river,’ ” he said. “I see this project fulfilling an item that’s been on their master plan for decades.”
Elizabeth Dragon, the city manager, sees it that way, too.
“The river has always been important to the city,” she said. But, she added, “We haven’t really had a good focus until Marty came along.”
With the suggestion of both restoring and reusing the river, plus redeveloping the old mill sites, Dragon said there seems to be a coming together between Parichand’s whitewater vision, PermaCityLife’s downtown development efforts, and the community’s vision of what it could be.
City officials have become more organized in responding to development ideas in the process and have had regular “economic development” meetings in recent years, too.
“We feel we’re building a lot of momentum with these private and public partnerships,” Dragon said. “We’re really trying to hone things in.”
For the whitewater project, the city approved an application for $12,000 in Community Development Finance Authority planning study money in October. That application has since been withdrawn due to engineering work having already begun on the site, but Dragon said Franklin is looking for funds elsewhere.
If worse came to worse, she added, the city could re-apply for the same money during the next round.
In the meantime, Parichand is in the last steps of forming a nonprofit for the project. He is also learning how Mill City Park can be accomplished in phases – a suggestion from Franklin officials.
“We’re in the process of getting a better understanding of the construction of all these pieces,” Parichand said.
Parichand said he has met twice with various state and federal agencies to make sure historical materials, the environment and the city’s land are all used appropriately.
When those studies are done, he added, the next task will be cleaning up.
“Earth has really taken the land,” Parichand said.
City Councilor Jim Wells was the lone voice last week saying that land should be left to the earth.
He was the only “no” vote on the TIF district update.
“The water – the river – is all city property. It pays no taxes,” Wells said. “It will not pay any taxes. I did not feel it was fair to taxpayers who have buildings in the downtown to have that money diverted to a non-taxable property.”
In addition to Franklin having other pockets that could benefit from TIF funds – the upper part of Central street between the downtown and the Tilton line, for example – Wells said he didn’t think the whitewater park was feasible.
“I don’t think that they can put that project in there and meet all the requirements,” he said. Wells said he was concerned that the historical mill remnants as well as environmental considerations could act as barriers.
“I’m not opposed to economic development in any form,” he said. “However, that is delicate property. It’s a very steep slope; it’s historic property on the edge of the river. To me, leave it alone.”
Wells said he also couldn’t see where exactly people visiting would spend money, since there aren’t many motels or restaurants left in Franklin.
“There’s not even any parking for these people,” Wells said, indicating the rural, back road in Northfield where most paddlers hop into the river for a whitewater run.
But Parichand argues that because the project is a non-traditional development, that could make it successful – with a lot of help.
“Innovators always look for disruptive technology,” he said. “However, it needs community partnerships. The nonprofit has to work with PermaCityLife and the city and the city council and community members to make this a reality.”
(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)
This letter was provided to the City of Franklin, which was read during the City Hearing on October 24, 2016.
To Whom it may concern with the City of Franklin,
My name is Jesse Nicola. I am writing you in recommendation of proceeding with funding relating to investigating and hopefully later building, a whitewater park.
I feel I have significant insight into the region, having spent much of my childhood in Franklin. My father owned the Radio Shack for many years, my Mother worked at the Franklin Middle School, and I myself attended the Franklin Middle School. I attended the Unitarian Church for many years, and still attend the Christmas Eve sermon.
It is my opinion that the benefits of bringing whitewater recreation to Franklin would provide a vital economic and cultural boost to the region.
Whitewater is a team sport. As a participant, you aren’t just trying to navigate through a river, you as a group must safely navigate it. If someone needs help, you will be there for them, as they will be there for you should the need arise. This mentality is prevalent at all levels of the sport, as you will often see experts helping beginners, responding to shows of gratitude by saying “a hundred people have helped me”.
Why does Franklin need another team sport? Because this team sport brings together a diverse group of people unlike anything the region currently has.
Whitewater blurs the lines of indifference. As a participant, you often find yourself sitting amongst peers who range from old to young, doctors to ditch diggers, wealthy to poor. It brings people from all walks of life together, enables them to relate, to share, and to care about each other.
This Camaraderie doesn’t end on the river. It shows youths that what they’re going through, may not be as big of a problem as they think. It shows young adults alternative career tracks, and It helps older community members find understanding of the younger generations. It builds and strengthens relationships for all those who participate, building blocks upon which a strong community is formed.
The benefits hardly end there though. This will bring money to your city, as people will travel for this experience. These people will eat in your city. They will stay in your city. Businesses can form to cater to these people. Just look at the city of Charlemont, MA. A small rural town far off the beaten path. This region was able to negotiate extensive whitewater recreation on the Deerfield river, which in turn has brought jobs for hundreds, recreation for tens of thousands, and a solidarity amongst the residents.
I encourage you as a city to not just consider this opportunity, but to wholeheartedly pursue it.
Thanks you for your time,
It is validation to the idea, cause and Franklin's Future when a large donation finds its way to us.
We can not be more thankful to Watts Water Technologies (http://www.wattswater.com), the largest employer in Franklin, for their gracious $10,000 donation!
With that planning sessions with the whitewater architects is occurring and we are planning their site visit to Franklin!
The whitewater park chicken barbecue fundraiser was a first. The first PermaCityLife Event in Marceau Park. The first event planned by a team made up of Franklin residents, permaculture people and whitewater enthusiasts. But with a duck race, corn hole tournament and the Morrill's famous chicken barbecue recipe there is no way it could have failed... right?
Right!!! The barbecue was a success!!! With over 120 meals served, over 80 ducks in the race and over 20 teams playing corn hole the park was a beacon of activity! We had supporters from all over New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and a father and son from California!
As a result, we raised over $3,000 and pushed our total funds over $10,000!!! It was a huge success! Thank you to Franklin Parks and Recreation Director, Krystal Alpers for helping and showing up in light of her daughter and father's birthdays. Thank you to the Morrill's for letting us "capitalize" on your family's recipe. Thank you to the Central Street Media, Franklin Studio, PermaCityLife, Outdoor New England and all of the 10+ volunteers that helped out with our first event!
Its always fun talking about what you are passionate about. It took a little while to open up to the camera, but then it was 20+ minutes of what this park is all about.
At its Feb. 12 meeting, the Colby-Sawyer College Board of Trustees approved a three-year Bachelor of Science degree in community-based sustainability that will launch in fall 2016. The major was developed as a result of an innovation grant that the college received from the Davis Educational Foundation.
Through hands-on courses and a unique partnership with Franklin-based nonprofit PermaCity Life, students will have the opportunity to develop relevant skills for creative and complex problem solving, work directly with regional stakeholders and potential employers, and do their part to help create a resilient, vibrant, diverse and sustainable community in Franklin, N.H.
New Hampshire’s smallest city is on the cusp of a sustainable revitalization and, thanks to this community-based collaboration between local organizations and Colby-Sawyer, students are positioned both to learn from and contribute to that effort. The major is complemented by a broader campus-wide program called the Sustainable Learning Initiative (SLI) at Franklin Falls, which offers students in every discipline experiential learning opportunities to explore, design and develop sustainable solutions to real and evolving community needs. The initiative is intended to be flexible and modular, allowing faculty to tailor an existing assignment or an entire course to focus on an aspect of the city’s revitalization.
“This innovative program highlights the best features of Colby-Sawyer’s learning model, which combines rigorous interdisciplinary knowledge and perspectives with experiential learning,” said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah A. Taylor, Ph.D. “In partnership with organizations in the Franklin community, students in the community-based sustainability program will put their knowledge to work by developing and implementing sustainability projects. These projects will advance students’ learning while simultaneously providing tangible benefits to the Franklin community. The program is designed to utilize intensive summer and winter learning experiences, allowing students to complete the degree in three years and thereby to manage the time and cost of education.”
Graduates will pay approximately 20 percent less for their college education and can start their careers or enter graduate school one year earlier by participating in January and May intensives onsite in Franklin.
Ongoing projects in Franklin include a locally themed restaurant and microbrewery, a volunteer-run coffee shop, a co-working space, an art gallery and music venue, multigenerational mixed-use housing, permaculture/edible landscaping, ecologically sound storm-water management, expanded bike trails and a whitewater park. Plans under consideration include an arts cooperative and performance center, reducing traffic downtown, zero-waste and commercial composting, a farmer’s market, a holistic health center, aquaponics and mushroom farming, a technology, research and development lab, market-rate housing and a hostel with function space and café.
Students in the SLI have already contributed to Franklin’s Master Plan, developed company logos, created signage for the local bike-trail system, constructed an Access database for the upcycled art gallery, and conducted a parking inventory for redevelopment planning. This spring, Colby-Sawyer interns will research information technology solutions, create Geographic Information Systems maps, develop tourism strategies, and explore best practices for commercial compost. Faculty have proposed other topics for study such as brownfield mitigation through biogeochemistry, consumer behavior and market research, sociological research for a community-based film project, community ceramics classes and student-run art exhibits, calculating timed-release of river volumes, efficiency and renewable energy, recreational event planning, and best practices for community gardens.
All of these revitalization projects have been made possible through broad collaborative efforts of community partners who share this vision for Franklin, such as: Credere Environmental Associates, Franklin Business & Industrial Development Corporation, Franklin Parks & Recreation, Franklin Regional Hospital, Franklin Savings Bank, Healthy Eating Active Living, Nobis Engineering, CATCH Neighborhood Housing, Lakes Region Planning Commission, Outdoor New England, The Franklin Studio, and Take Root NH. Learn more at: www.sli-franklinfalls.com.