7 Belknap County towns get LCHIP grants

CONCORD — Seven of the 11 municipalities in Belknap County — Laconia, Alton, Barnstead, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith and Sanbornton — were among the 39 cities and towns awarded grants in the 12th annual round of funding by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).

The grants were announced yesterday by Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers of Loudon, who chairs the Board of Directors of LCHIP, at the Legislative Office Building before some 75 representatives from most of the 39 communities who braved the foul weather to celebrate the news.

"You are the real heroes of the LCHIP story," Dijit Taylor, executive director of LCHIP, told the crowd.

Altogether the grants totaled $542,835, of which $440,000 will be applied to conserving natural resources and the balance to renovating and preserving historic buildings. The grants represent 21 percent of the estimated $2,550,692 it will cost to complete the projects, with the balance to be raised by matching funds.

Alton and Gilford shared the largest grant of $340,000, awarded to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and Lakes Region Conservation Trust to fund the acquisition and protection of four parcels covering 950 acres on and near Mount Major. The Belknap Range Conservation Coalition (BRCC) together with the Conservation Commissions of Alton, Gilford and Gilmanton are contributing to the $1.8-million project.

The four parcels cover 30 square miles of land crisscrossed by more than 70 miles of hiking trails. Three of the parcels lie on or near Mount Major in Alton. These include some 75 acres that straddle the two major trails leading up the mountain from the parking area off Route 11, 100 acres abutting the 60-acre Mount Major State Forest at the summit, and 455 acres to the west of the summit. The fourth parcel, 331 acres in Gilford, lies on the eastern reach of the Belknap Range on the slope of Piper Mountain at the head of Moulton Valley, which is riven by the falling waters of Moulton Brook.

Bear-Paw Regional Greenways received $100,000 toward the $794,000 needed to purchase a conservation easement on some 500 acres of woodland in Barnstead, Pittsfield and Strafford, which includes the frontage on Crooked Run, a tributary of the Suncook River. Bear-Paw has already received a $350,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Aquatic Resource Mitigation (ARM) Fund. The property, which is owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America , Boston Minutemen Council, is heavily forested with 25 wetlands covering 133 acres, including 4,000 feet of frontage on Wild Goose Pond, and provides prime habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species.

Belmont will apply its $15,000 grant from LCHIP to the restoration of its Victorian bandstand, which was recently moved adjacent to the library as part of the revitalization of the village. Built in 1908, the ornate octagonal structure on a high latticework base features turned posts and balusters beneath a shingled roof with flared eaves. The project is estimated to cost $35,000.

The smallest of the 39 grants, $5,750, was awarded to Sanbornton to renovate the exterior of the Lane Tavern, home to the Sanbornton Historical Society. Built in the early 1800s, the tavern was donated to the society in 1965, when it began undergoing a renovation. Once a way station for horse-drawn coaches plying the road between Concord and Plymouth, the tavern, after passing through many hands over the course of two centuries, is a centerpiece of the community and host to its history.

LCHIP awarded the Meredith Public Library $70,000 to restore masonry and repair gutters on the exterior of the building. Last year a report on the condition of the library suggested that an investment of between $260,000 and $383,000 would be required to overcome safety issues, undertake immediate repairs and ultimately restore and preserve the building. The library sought a grant of $184,622 from LCHIP, but has also approached the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee and Board of Selectmen for funding in the 2014 budget.

In Laconia, the Belknap Mill Society was awarded $12,085. The figure represents half the estimated cost of repairing and renovating the cupola atop the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States, which was built in 1823 and operated until 1969.

CAPTION: Among those from the Lakes Region on hand to mark the awarding of grants by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program were, from left, Vicki Abbott of the Sanbornton Historical Society, Peter Ellis of Gilfdord, president of the Belknap Mill Society, Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), Dave Witham, president of the Sanbornton Historical Society, Representative David Huot (D-Laconia), Ed Engler, Mayor-Elect of Laconia, and Linda Frawley, chair of the Belmont Heritage Commission. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).