Outdoor New England | ONE

Franklin bets on revitalization with new park

Whitewater, City NewsMarty ParichandComment

Laconia Daily Sun | Tim Jones | April 21, 2018

  Courtesy of VHB Bedford.

Courtesy of VHB Bedford.

FRANKLIN — 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? Can it bring people back to the city center where they will recreate and relax, listen to music, dine, shop and, maybe, eventually, choose to settle and build a life there?

The city of Franklin is betting on exactly that with a proposed 11-acre Mill City Park at Franklin Falls (millcitypark.com) to be built on the open land on the north bank of the river upstream of the old trestle bridge visible from Route 3 in downtown Franklin. As planned, the park will open direct access and recreation opportunities on the Winnipesaukee River and will complement the Winnipesaukee River Trail which has already been developed along the south bank of the river. The centerpiece of the new park will be a “Whitewater Play Park” which planners are hoping will draw the interest of kayakers, canoeists, paddleboarders, tubers, and surfers from around New England. As people come to play in the flowing water, others will come to watch the action, and good things will result.

The same concept has worked for other cities, like Salida, Colorado, (a dying railroad town) and Dayton, Ohio, (in the heart of the Rustbelt) and many other river communities across the country, where river play parks have become proven economic drivers for downtown revitalization. And, the same thing can happen in Franklin, according to Marty Parichand, the owner of Outdoor New England (outdoornewengland.com), who runs a kayak shop in a refurbished mill building in downtown Franklin and who is spearheading the Mill City Park project. “There’s nothing else like it in New England,” says Parichand. “A whitewater play park can be a reason for people to come to Franklin and see the city in a new way.”

What is a whitewater play park?

To understand what’s going on here, you have to understand a little about recreating on rivers here in the Lakes Region. Begin with the notion that flowing water means fun in the same way that a snow-covered slope means fun.

You may not know it, but hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, already come to the Lakes Region each spring and summer specifically to enjoy our rivers, especially the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee. Some are just relaxing while swimming and sunning, or floating in an inner tube, but at the core are the whitewater paddlers who take small boats into flowing water seeking the same challenge and adrenaline rush that skiers and snowboarders find on the slopes.

Just as some skiers and snowboarders start at the top of a mountain and follow a trail to the base, there are paddlers who “run the river,” starting upstream and paddling down. Some river paddlers choose “quick water,” which is flowing water without any significant obstacles, the equivalent of a beginner trail at a ski area. Other paddlers s seek expert terrain, dodging rocks and using the waves and eddies formed by the flowing water the same way that expert skiers and riders might seek out steeps, bumps or powder snow in the spaces between trees. At this time of year when water flows are high, you can visit Trestle View Park in Franklin and likely see kayakers and canoeists running the toughest whitewater on the Winnipesaukee.

But a number of skiers and snowboarders today gravitate to terrain parks, where they can practice doing jumps, grinds, spins and flips on special features that have been crafted for exactly that purpose. There’s a subset of whitewater paddlers who use tiny play boats to do tricks on whitewater features in a river. These play boaters will “park and play” for long periods a flowing wave that allows them to practice tricks exactly as skiers and snowboarders do in a terrain park. You can see an example of park and play on Coolidge Woods Road near downtown Bristol where the Pemi Playhole attracts boaters who practice their tricks and will happily put on a show for an appreciative audience.

A whitewater play park is a partnership between man and the river, in which man engineers specific features on the river to attract people seeking fun. According to Mike Harvey from the Colorado-based company Recreation Engineering and Planning, which is designing the play park, the current thinking calls for three main features within about 1,200 feet of flowing river. One of the goals will be to engineer the features so they can survive over time without requiring any regular maintenance. They will not only have to withstand periodic floods but will also have to be structured so that the fun factor stays high even when water levels in the river vary.

Just as ski areas need snow and often make snow to supplement what Mother Nature delivers, whitewater play parks need water. Natural cycles would create constantly varying flows, but water resources on the Winnipesaukee are controlled to a large extent by the three major dams upstream, at the outlets of Winnipesaukee, Opeechee Bay and Winnisquam. The eventual hope is to stabilize water levels in the river so that it flows at acceptable recreation levels as much as possible though spring, summer and fall.

Cleaning up the past and permitting the future

The Winnipesaukee River was the power source that drove the city’s original development. Dams along the river provided power to mills, mills created jobs and brought people. Franklin prospered. Then the world changed, the jobs moved away never to return, the mills crumbled and the river was essentially abandoned.

As with many other rivers in the state, time and concerted effort have cleaned up much of the pollution from this once-fetid river. The water now runs clean but the impacts of the industrial past still remain in the form of breached and broken-down dams and mill foundations. Part of the goal of this new project is to honor the industrial history even as they work to remove or mitigate some of the more dangerous remnants of that past, such as pieces of log cribbing and broken concrete with rebar which lurk deep beneath the surface of the river like punji sticks on a jungle trail waiting to impale the unsuspecting.

Restoring the river bed while honoring the historic significance is going to be a challenge, as is making changes to the river without significant environmental impact. The permitting process with the state’s Department of Environmental Services is already underway and, as yet, has encountered no major road blocks, though many questions will need to be answered in detail before the project will be allowed to begin actual construction. The organizers of the Mill City Park have hired VHB, a consulting firm with offices in Bedford to help shepherd the project through the permitting process.

The Mill City Park organizers have just received a $5,000 Community Grant from the state Capital Region Development Council which will help them create a formal Master Plan for the park, a process that’s expected to take about three months. In addition to the whitewater park at the center of the plan, the long range goals will include a community garden, event space, picnic area, historic mill run trail, interconnection to the Winnipesaukee River Trail, a mountain bike pump track system and an “eco-village area.”

Construction of the first whitewater feature will start in 2019 if all goes according to plan – even sooner if the stars align correctly.

Enjoying the river right now

If you want to sample what river recreation is all about before the play park even gets started, you have plenty of immediate opportunities. To keep it simple, just head to Franklin and take a walk on the Winnipesaukee River Trail. Before the leaves come out, you’ll have a good view of the Class III river run which attracts so many paddlers from around New England.

From Friday, June 22, to Sunday, June 24, the organizers of Mill City Park are hosting the Winni River Days at Trestle View Park. This fundraising event will include free live music, a duck race, vendors, food, and (oh yeah!) a chance to watch whitewater paddlers at play in a couple of races to be held on the river. You can get more details at http://millcitypark.com/events/2018winniriverdays.

If you want to get on the river yourself, Outdoor New England is offering whitewater rafting trips there this spring. You can safely get a taste of the adrenaline-rush of whitewater without the long learning curve of learning to paddle it on your own.

But if you really want to experience the true excitement of the river, take an introduction to whitewater kayaking class from Outdoor New England and get on the water with your own boat. You’ll start your paddling career upstream in Tilton, where the rapids are much smaller and easier to negotiate, but if you keep practicing, you’ll be ready to enjoy the lower Winni with its newly engineered playspots as they come on line.


Winnipesaukee River to challenge some of the nation's best paddlers

Abagayle McMahonComment

Concord Monitor | June 23, 2017

NORTHFIELD -- Like a ferryman methodically pulling a barge across a river, Sonny Hunt reels hand-over-hand a thin nylon cord. He's hauling striped wooden poles into place on wires stretched above the fast-flowing Winnipesaukee River.

Hunt and a group of dedicated volunteers were busy rigging a 21-gate course in the rapids across from the Tilton police station in preparation for the Winnipesaukee River Whitewater Slalom, which takes place Sunday, June 25.

"It takes strength, flexibility and a lot of boat control. There is a lot of technique," said race volunteer Michele Barbin of Snow Shoe, Pa. Her son, Alden Henrie, just completed his sophomore year of high school, and will be among the paddlers pitting themselves against the river and the clock.

"When it comes to addictions for 16-year-olds I'll take it," Barbin said. 

On Monday, Henrie is leaving for Europe to test himself against those under ages 18 and 23 in the Whitewater World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia.

"It's a lifelong sport. Low impact on your body and burns a ton of calories," Barbin said. 

Keech LeClair and his wife, Ann, of Ossining, N.Y., arrived on Thursday, towing their travel-trailer, which they parked riverside on conservation land on the Northfield side of the river at the end of Granite Street. The couple has clinched the national tandem canoeing championships five times and travel throughout New England to attend whitewater paddling events.

"Whitewater is not something we do - it defines us," said LeClair. He estimates that they have paddled some 35,000 miles together.

Since Ann was sidelined after undergoing knee surgery, Keech, who is approaching 80, now competes in the open canoe master class for single paddlers age 40 and over. The American Canoeing Association is the sport's governing body.

Whitewater slalom paddling came to the U.S. in the '50s, after being developed in France. The sport combines precise boat-handling skills with speed. Each paddler gets two chances to run the course and is timed racing through a series of gates - poles dangling from wires stretched across the river. Gates are set in both directions: both downstream - with the current, and upstream - against the current.

Time penalties are added - 50 seconds for missing a gate. In the kayak and closed canoe division, a two-second time penalty is assessed per gate for touching a pole. In an open canoe, a touch is 10 seconds per gate. The better of the two runs is used in the final rankings.

A red canoe juts from the roof of LeClair's SUV. Made of Kevlar and carbon fiber, it's 15 feet long and weighs a scant 32 pounds. It has a curved or "rockered" bottom so that it can be maneuvered in whitewater through the series of gates.

"The crew here are all volunteers. Many of them take a day off from work to come help set up the course. People show up and say thanks," he said.

"It keeps me out in nature," LeClair said of his attraction to the sport. He retired from IBM, and his wife is a high school guidance counselor.

"It's a lot of fun. You can watch people (paddle) and try and emulate what they do. Most races have a potluck dinner, and there is a lot of camaraderie."

Thirty years ago, The Friends of the Winnipesaukee River, which organizes this weekend's event, started working with local communities to look at the ribbon of water with fresh eyes. They were able to convince town officials of the benefits of including recreation and conservation on the Winnipesaukee in their master plans. The Friends of the Winnipesaukee River envisioned a future when the river would again be an economic engine, but instead of powering industry, it would enhance recreational opportunities for locals and attract visitors.

The municipalities of Tilton, Northfield and Franklin were receptive and each conserved shorefront along the Winni River or developed an abutting park. Plans are also in the works to create a whitewater park in Franklin, the first of its type in New England.

Hunt, who is chairing the race with his daughter, Amy, said typically the state approves a dam release to create ideal conditions. But persistent rain already has the river running at 1,200 cubic feet per second, three to four hundred cfs more than during the four prior races.

A resident of Concord, Hunt is no stranger to the lure of whitewater. He and his daughter have claimed a national title in the open canoe mixed division.

"I enjoy bringing (the sport) to different towns and letting people see what's out there. We do lessons and beginner courses," Hunt said.

He has been organizing the Blackwater Slalom race in his hometown of Webster for the past 34 years.

Eighty to ninety boats are expected at the Winni race, which is a stop on the New England White Water Slalom series. Paddlers will compete in a variety of categories for canoes and kayaks, both men and women, combined, solo and tandem divisions. Novices are encouraged to come out and give it a try.

On Friday, after the bulk of the course gates had been set, John "Kaz" Kazimierczyk who designs and builds some of the hottest slalom open canoes right here in the Granite State, took to the river and showed why he has been Open Canoe National Champion 10 times. In addition to slalom, he is a three-time Downriver National Champion and has won a whopping 68 national titles.

"He is just playing," said LeClair as Kazimierczyk appeared to effortlessly maneuver his canoe around a giant boulder in a vortex of current. Many of the competitors are using the Winni race as a final tune-up for the nationals to be held in July.

Surges in the popularity of the sport, LeClair said, typically track the cycle of the Olympic Games. Following the Games, footage of the whitewater canoe slalom is the most requested video, according to LeClair.

White-water race to commemorate anniversary of river preservation

Whitewater, City NewsMarty ParichandComment

Concord Monitor | Lucas Masin-Moyer | June 21, 2017

  Race directors Sonny and Amy Hunt take part in a previous year’s slalom race on the Winnipesaukee River.   Concord Monitor Article Picture.

Race directors Sonny and Amy Hunt take part in a previous year’s slalom race on the Winnipesaukee River. Concord Monitor Article Picture.

Thirty years ago, residents of Tilton, Northfield and Franklin almost lost all access to white water on the Winnipesaukee River when a proposed a dam threatened to divert the flow of the river into a pipe to generate power.

Not wanting to lose access to the river that flowed through all three communities, activists formed the Friends of the Winnipesaukee River, which spent years advocating against construction until the dam permits for lapsed and the white-water portions of the river were preserved.

To celebrate the anniversary of preservation efforts, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, the towns and conservation commissions of Northfield and Tilton, and Friends of the Winnipesaukee River created a white-water slalom race in the part of the river where the dams were supposed to be built, and it’s returning this Saturday and Sunday.

Ken Norton, who helped organize the event, said the race came together to showcase the possibility of these preserved white-water areas as hot spots for recreation.

The efforts to make the river more accessible, Norton said in a statement, had been going on long before the proposed dam construction and continue today.

“It was (about) increasing awareness events about recreational possibilities in the river,” he said.

The clean-up efforts involved “removal of rebar and dam debris from the river to make it safe for paddling and a lot of work with the communities to recognize the value of recreation and that pushed the state to agree to have some white water loops,” Norton said.

According to Norton, close to 75 racers will take advantage of the river, now in top shape for white-water recreation – an activity that has spread beyond the most avid of racers.

“People come and go and they paddle ... some people come and play on Saturdays and don’t race,” Norton said. 

In order to help organize and run the race, the organizations enlisted the help of father-daughter team Sonny and Amy Hunt, who had previous experience running slalom races in Webster.

Sonny Hunt said he believes the race will attract paddlers from all over the area.

“Racers are looking forward to this event as part of the New England White Water Slalom series and as preparation for the White Water Slalom Nationals to be held in early July,” he said in a press release.

The race will travel along the upper portion of the river through Tilton, Northfield and Franklin.

The efforts to make the river more accessible have coincided with efforts to revitalize the city of Franklin. 

Norton said the efforts to blend these efforts has been led by Marty Parichand, the owner of Outdoor New England, who is working in conjunction with PermaCityLife to revitalize the Franklin downtown.

These efforts, Norton said, will make the area a go-to for prospective paddlers and white-water enthusiasts.

“They are looking at developing a white-water park in Franklin, in the lower section and that would have a variety of attractions – a mountain bike track with it – lots of stuff going on,” he said.


Where To Hike, Bike & Raft In A Day In New Hampshire

Company News, City News, WhitewaterJason BogaczComment

If you drive 90 minutes north of Boston, you’ll reach an area that includes three traditional New England towns – Andover, Franklin and Northfield. In one day in this small area it’s easy to hike, mountain bike and raft – and then finish the day with a good meal.

The Northern Rail Trail

Between the towns of Boscawen and Lebanon on the railbed used by the Northern Railroad for over 100 years is 58 miles of multi-use trail that’s been in place since the rail line was abandoned in the 1990’s. Today it’s called the Northern Rail Trail and is used year-round by hikers, cyclists, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

I got a taste of the trail beginning in the cute, historic village of Potter Place near Andover. It’s the site of the information kiosk and the main trailhead for Friends of the Northern Rail Trail. Right off the bat I was led by my host, Lindy Heim to the Secret Garden. Built with love and free labour all because of the vision of one man – Ken Reid, the garden sits in the cellar hole of a former farmhouse owned by Richard and Sally Potter. Back in the early 1800’s Richard was a ventriloquist and magician of some note. Their graves can be seen across from the train depot.

From the Secret Garden we wandered down the trail enjoying gorgeous stands of hardwood forest – with the occasional black fly to annoy us as the temperature climbed. Lindy pointed out a couple of things along the trail I would have seen but not understood their value.

 The Secret Garden in Potter Place

The Secret Garden in Potter Place

 Starting the hike at Potter Place – a really pretty historic village

Starting the hike at Potter Place – a really pretty historic village

 Delightful, easy hiking on the Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire

Delightful, easy hiking on the Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire

 Telltales – structures with wires hanging down

Telltales – structures with wires hanging down

 Look for historic mileposts – this one showing that it’s 38 miles to White River Junction; the backside would show the distance to Boston

Look for historic mileposts – this one showing that it’s 38 miles to White River Junction; the backside would show the distance to Boston

Mountain Biking at Highland Mountain Bike Park

I’ve logged a lot of miles on a mountain bike BUT never a single mile on the type of mountain bike pictured below which are made for mountain bike parks. But I’m game for most everything and was happy to don a full helmet and knee pads to see what I could do.

First I had a chat with the founder of Highland Mountain Bike Park, Mark Hayes. After selling a high tech company before the stock meltdown, he had a vision to create the world’s only lift accessed mountain completely dedicated to mountain biking. Today the word is out and the park is a mecca for mountain bikers who come from all over New England and even further afield. Apart from an extensive trail network, the park boasts an indoor training facility and skill building areas. In summer Mark has expanded to include kid’s camps which he says “Have Become Very Popular.” His goal is to appeal to every type of mountain biker from newbie to elite. With the opportunity to take lessons and practice in a friendly environment, he has made the sport very approachable for all ages.

I started my adventure with a mountain biking lesson. On these bikes you rarely sit down – and it’s so hard to peddle in the sitting position you won’t want to, except when your legs are screaming at you. I had to practice keeping one finger over each brake all the time; and I was supposed to stay loose in the neutral position and keep my eyes focused ahead.

After it was decided that I wouldn’t be a liability to myself, we headed for the chairlifts. The views are fantastic especially as you climb about 700 vertical feet. At the top, large maps show all the trails ranging from beginner to double black. Needless to say I was on a beginner trail – the easiest one called Freedom Trail.

And guess what? Me – a middle-aged woman had a blast! I followed my guide down – and kept my eyes focused ahead which made a huge difference. It was about 3.5 miles long and by the end – actually well before the end, my legs were begging to have a break from their “neutral” position. But I did it and if I didn’t have to run off and raft I would have done another run or two.

The facility is truly fantastic. After biking you can sit back, take in the view of fellow bikers and enjoy beers, drinks and a meal. It’s a sweet place to visit.

 I’m all outfitted and ready to go mountain biking at the Highland Mountain Bike Park

I’m all outfitted and ready to go mountain biking at the Highland Mountain Bike Park

 There’s a great selection of bikes for all sizes at Highland Mountain Bike Park

There’s a great selection of bikes for all sizes at Highland Mountain Bike Park

 Take the chairlift up so you can access a maze of trails to suit all level of mountain biker

Take the chairlift up so you can access a maze of trails to suit all level of mountain biker

 Look for the detailed map at the top of the chairlift so you don’t end up on one that doesn’t match your skill set

Look for the detailed map at the top of the chairlift so you don’t end up on one that doesn’t match your skill set

 Practice riding banked curves on the Highland Mountain bike trails

Practice riding banked curves on the Highland Mountain bike trails

Rafting the Winnipeasaukee River

If you’re looking for a supremely fun and thrilling rafting experience you can do in just 90 minutes, basically over a long lunch hour, the Winnipeausaukee River is it. I had the pleasure of rafting the river twice one afternoon with Outdoor New England.

After donning wetsuits in their store on the main street of Franklin, we had a five minute car ride to the launch site – the shortest ride ever to a put-in. Of course we were given the full safety spiel before getting into the raft and once in our guide made sure we understood his commands before heading out. Though this is the only urban rafting experience in all of New England it’s one that keeps you on your toes and delivers more thrills per mile than most.

The rafting starts off quietly enough with a few ripples but in short order our adrenaline surged as we hit Class II, III and IV rapids in quick succession. In fact over the approximate 1.5 miles we raft, there was hardly a moment of calm. We barely have time to notice the remains of mills and dams along the edge of the river before we’re commanded to paddle hard right or left or to back paddle NOW.

The last major rapid – Trestle Bridge (pictured below) is a tricky one because if you get knocked out of the raft – you need to get to shore quickly as the next obstacle downstream is a dam. Trust me that gets your attention.

One of the fellows in our boat was new to rafting and he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. The same goes for me. I felt exhilarated and very much alive after both runs down the river. After the first run, when I emerged from the raft looking like a drowned rat, I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Jeanne Shaheen (previously Governor of New Hampshire). She was there along with Marty Parichand, the Founder of Outdoor New England to hear about a project “To Create A Sustainable Whitewater Park For Year Round Use On The River With The Goal Of Turning The Downtown Into A Vibrant Micro-Urban Centerpiece.” I wish Marty and the community lots of luck. Certainly my urban rafting experience – a first – was memorable.

 Great fun rafting the rafting the Winnipeasaukee River with Outdoor New England (Photo credit: Outdoor New England)

Great fun rafting the rafting the Winnipeasaukee River with Outdoor New England (Photo credit: Outdoor New England)

 This is the last set of rapids you have to negotiate

This is the last set of rapids you have to negotiate

 If you dump in the last rapid you have to get to the side quickly so you don’t reach the dam.

If you dump in the last rapid you have to get to the side quickly so you don’t reach the dam.

Thank you to Visit New Hampshire for hosting my stay and to Lindy, Mark and Marty to taking the time to speak with me.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest

Telltales are structures with wires or rope hanging down (fourth photo down). Ed Hillier notes that “They Were Placed Some 100 Feet On Either Side Of An Overhead Bridge Or Other Low-Clearance Obstacle. They Warned Any Railroad Worker Who Was Standing On Top Of A Railroad Car That He Had Only A Few Seconds To Drop Down Or Be Swept Off The Car.”

The other interesting feature along this trail are the historic mileposts. Each of these granite posts are 8.5 feet long and weigh 1,400 pounds. Not only can you see the distance to Boston or White River Junction on each marker, but back in the day engineers could judge their train speed by the time it took to travel between mile markers. Today they serve as reference points just as they did when the railroad owned it and kept track of railroad properties like bridges, culverts and train stations.


Whitewater Kayaking Instruction, New Hampshire

WhitewaterMarty ParichandComment
  Instructor Marty Parichand of   Outdoor New England   gives EasternSlopes.com Editor Tim Jones some pointers on rolling a whitewater kayak. (EasternSlopes.com photo)

Instructor Marty Parichand of Outdoor New England gives EasternSlopes.com Editor Tim Jones some pointers on rolling a whitewater kayak. (EasternSlopes.com photo)

Excerpt from EasternSlopes.com | T. Jones

"Outdoor New England is now offering introductory, freestyle, and custom whitewater kayaking instruction and rolling clinics on the Winnipesaukee, Pemigewasset, and Merrimack Rivers in Central New Hampshire. EasternSlopes.com editor Tim Jones has taken a rolling clinic with owner Marty Parichand and is looking forward to another session soon."