WOW backers hope hard data on trail usage will be their sharpest weapon in quest for more funding

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — If the non-profit organization's effort to create the first phase of the  WOW Trail is predictive, succeeding in the construction of subsequent phases will require a struggle to raise both funding and political support. With the expectation that hard data will be the best armament for the coming fight, WOW Trail organizers are calling for volunteers to help count the current users of the city-owned amenity.

To this point, the trail has largely been funded by ...

LACONIA — If the non-profit organization's effort to create the first phase of the  WOW Trail is predictive, succeeding in the construction of subsequent phases will require a struggle to raise both funding and political support. With the expectation that hard data will be the best armament for the coming fight, WOW Trail organizers are calling for volunteers to help count the current users of the city-owned amenity.

To this point, the trail has largely been funded by government grants and private donations.

Diane Hanley, president of the WOW Trail organization, said volunteers will be paired together to observe and count users of the trail during various 2.5 to four hour periods between April 17 and May 12. A training seminar for volunteers will be held during the week of April 9. Those who are interested in assisting the effort should send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

"It helps us show the level of interest the public has for a second phase," Hanley said about the count. Anecdotally, she and other proponents have counted as many as 30 people passing a given spot during an hour of fair weather. However, anecdotes don't carry much weight before City Council or on a grant application. "What we want to do is get really good numbers."

Later, sometime this summer, the organization plans to administer a survey to see why people use the trail and for their opinions of the relatively new addition to the city. "We're counting them and asking what they think about the trail," Hanley said.

She thinks the information will prove useful as the organization makes its case for the trail's second phase. The first leg of the trail runs from Lakeport to downtown Laconia, a distance of little more than one mile. The next stretch will continue from Veterans' Square in downtown to the Belmont town line, effectively doubling the length of the trail. The WOW Trail effort is progressing simultaneous to other regional efforts, with a shared vision of joining all the trails to create a means for local residents and visitors to walk or bicycle throughout the Lakes Region.

"We need cash, period, for phase two," said Hanley. She estimates that the second phase will cost about $900,000 including design and construction. So far, the organization has about $280,000 on hand.

If the organization can show a robust use of the trail, she hopes donors will be inspired to give freely. And, if she can combine the trail count with an economic impact report completed by the Belknap County Economic Development Council, she can prove to City Hall that the project is worth supporting. "I think we need to show everyone, this is who's using the trail... It tells Laconia City Council, this is actually what's happening out there."