It may have been a drizzly and gray day, but spirits were high as area residents, community leaders and business people gathered under a tent at Trestleview Park in Franklin for the announcement of a major step forward for the proposed Mill City Park, a whitewater recreation area to be built along the banks of the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin.
Opening remarks about this project in conjunction with other things that are happening in Franklin were given by interim Mayor, Scott Clarenbach. Later in the program, Charles Chandler, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Franklin Savings Bank took to the podium to announce that the Bank was donating $250,000 to the project. Chandler stated that the board of directors were unanimous in voting to donate to the project which he described as being “transformative for Franklin.” The project also recently received a grant for $180,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. With these major grants proponents are hoping to get the project moving forward.
The Winnipesauke Rriver runs from Lake Winnipesaukee to Franklin where it joins the Pemigewasset to form the Merrimack River. The Franklin section of the river is known to have some of the best whitewater in the state. For many years, kayakers have gathered on New Year's Day to run the rapids on the Franklin section of the river beginning on Cross Mill Road. The water is relatively flat above Cross Mill Road. Almost immediately below the bridge the rapids begin and continue to the large former railroad trestle in downtown Franklin. After negotiating the tricky rapids under the trestle paddlers are shot into a stretch of flat water being held back by the dam at the former Stevens Mill. A ramp was built many years ago in Trestleview Park so that the paddlers would be able to easily exit the river.
The popularity of whitewater sports has increased in recent years and the Franklin group, led by Mary Parichand, owner of One New England in downtown Franklin, hopes to develop a unique recreation area that focuses on whitewater sports as well as a Pump Track and other features that will attract people to come and play in Franklin. They believe that it will be key to the revitalization and resurgence of Franklin.
So what is a pump track? The Mill City Park Website describes it as “a looping bike trail system of dirt berms and rollers, that is designed to ride continuously without pedaling. A rider’s speed comes from their ability to gain momentum through the tight terrain transitions. These systems become freestyle destinations to try and master the latest tricks.“ The Pump Track, like the whitewater park are free for the community to use and enjoy.
The Mill City Park Project is just one of several things happening to revitalize Franklin’s Downtown. In 2001 the Franklin Opera House reopened in the city hall as a performing arts venue. The opera house has provided a venue for local theater groups, schools and others to perform, hold meetings and the like. Regional and national performers also perform at the venue. The opera house brings thousands of people into Franklin each year.
Permacity Life is another initiative, led by Todd Workman. Their mission is to use the principles of permaculture to build a collaborative and resilient community through downtown revitalization, outdoor recreation and experiential education. As part of that project a vacant mill building behind city hall is being transformed into housing units, a restaurant is being built in the former antique center on the corner of Central and Franklin Streets, and the facades of several other buildings have been repaired and updated. Several of these buildings now have businesses and shops in them. Colby-Sawyer College in New London has partnered with Permacity Life and has used the project as a learning initiative for students.
Another initiative is called Franklin Takes Root. This group provides opportunities for local businesses to share positive ideas and help each other move forward. The group recently announced the 1 Million Cups Franklin Falls program to help encourage entrepreneurs and start up businesses.
Many Franklin residents are excited about all the things that are happening and hope that Franklin can capitalize on all of these projects and become a better place to live, work and play.