By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Selectmen recently got a glimpse of plans to improve and enhance Swasey Park, a patch of land that more than most can lay claim to being the cradle of Meredith.
Swasey Park, 7.9 acres of sloping woodland on the southeast east bank of the canal leading from Lake Waukewan through Mill Falls to Lake Winnipesaukee, is a reminder of where and how Meredith grew from a rude settlement to a thriving town.
Soon after the dawn of the 19th century, John Bond Swasey, whose father, Benjamin, came to Meredith in the 1770s, began purchasing landed property and water rights along Measly Pond Brook that flowed from Lake Waukewan to Lake Winnipesaukee. By 1818 he had completed construction of a 600-foot canal, which with a 40-drop at Mill Falls provided power that soon drove sawmills, grist mills and cotton mills and ultimately even the Meredith Electric Light Company that lit the town in 1895. In 1974, Swasey's descendants donated a portion of the land remaining in the family to the town, and two years later the park was dedicated.
This spring the design committee of the Greater Meredith Program, chaired by architect Chris Williams, sponsored two charities, led by Paul Eldridge and including historian Mae Williams and Rick Van de Poll of Ecosystems Management Consultants, to develop a conceptual plan for the park.
Williams and Eldridge told the selectmen that while there is agreement that the park should be kept as a natural space and branded as a "natural" park, pathways, benches and signs should be added, along with a spot to land and launch kayaks and canoes. There would be no trash cans, but instead a "carry in/carry out" policy. It was suggested that a boardwalk might be built to reach Turtle Rock, one of the landmarks of the park, and that the park could be added as a destination on the Meredith Sculpture Walk
Williams told the board that the charities are a starting point toward the development of a final plan. He said schools, businesses and civic groups should be engaged to assist with the project. While the cost of the project remains to determined, he said that a number of public and private sources of funding should begin to be explored.
Swasey Park, marked in green, may soon see some improvements. (Graphic courtesy of Google Maps)
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