Altrusa Club & friends not giving in to vandals who deface children's story book posted along Laconia's WOW Trail

LACONIA — The colorful illustrations from the ''Bear Wants More'' children's story which have been vandalized in recent months along the Story Trail portion of the WOW Trail have been restored thanks to the efforts of dedicated trail users.
Deanne Murphy, president of the Altrusa Club of Laconia, says that Peter Merrill of Lakeport has restored the damaged illustrations, many of which were recovered by Bob McCarthy, a frequent walker on the trail whose French Begar Picard ''Beau'' is well-known to other trail walkers.
Murphy said that many of the illustrations were defaced with lewd words and pictures and says she can't understand why anyone would be so mean and uncaring that they would destroy something meant to bring joy and happiness to children using the trail with their families.
She said the project cost the club $1,000 to purchase and install along the pathway and is part of the club's effort to promote literacy.
The illustrations went up along the WOW Trail on Saturday May 16, in conjunction with the Gale to Goss Library Community Walk, with 32 of them placed along the entire length of trail.
Murphy says the project for the community was created by Altrusa members as a literacy venture to encourage people of all ages to get out and walk while enjoying children's books. The undertaking was funded entirely by the Altrusans after gaining permission and support from the WOW Trail board and the Laconia Parks and Recreation Department.
She said the site was chosen because it is free, open to the public, handicapped accessible and runs for just over 1/2 mile. Without traffic concerns walkers, bicyclists and children running or in carriages could enjoy the story along the path. "Bear Wants More" was chosen for its colorful illustrations and message of cooperation among members of the animal world. The book was written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman, originally published in 2003.
Merrill, who is retired from a career as a maintenance worker, said that he enjoyed walking the trail with his four-year-old grandson, William Vashaw, who was delighted to see the illustrations.
''He told me that he knew the story because they have the book in his Head Start class and he would read it from memory when he saw each page. When he saw that the pages were missing from the fence he asked 'where's the story' and was visibly upset that it wasn't there,'' said Merrill.
Murphy says that Merrill stopped by her family's business, Terry Murphy's Court Street Auto (Citgo), and after looking at some of the damaged illustrations which had been brought to her by the Parks and Recreation Department offered to repair them.
''It's my nature to fix things,'' said Merrill who said that since the illustrations have gone back up his grandson is very happy to see it.
''A lot of people walk the trail and enjoy it,'' said Merrill.
He said that others using the trail are not interested in seeing it maintained and that items recovered along the trail by him have included syringes which he believes were used by people taking drugs.
McCarthy, a semi-retired musician who plays guitar and mandolin, has played with the likes of Tommy Makem and Bonnie Raitt and provides music at places like the Taylor Home and the New London Hospital.
He saw a pile of the illustrations stacked up along the trail near O restaurant in Lakeport and that the person he believes was trying to steal them ran away as he approached.
McCarthy says he and his dog, one of only 475 Begar Picards left in the world, are out on the trail just about every morning and that he has been approached by panhandlers seeking money, which gives him cause for concern about the safety of people using the trail.
''I hope more people will get out and use the trail and make it a safer place where this kind of vandalism won't take place,'' says McCarthy.
Murphy says that two of the original 32 illustrations are still missing and is hoping that they will be recovered and returned. She said that the recovered pages are now grouped more closely together at the Lakeport Square end of the WOW Trail.


Bob McCarthy and his Begar Picard ''Beau'' are frequent walkers along the WOW Trail and have recovered many of the Story Trail pages of ''Bear Wants More'' which were vandalized. He is shown with Deanne Murphy, president of the Laconia Altrusa Club, and Peter Merrill of Lakeport, who has repaired the damaged vinyl covered pages so that they can be again displayed along the trail for young readers. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Bumper Crop awaits pick-your-own apple enthusiasts

BELMONT — Pick-your-own apple season is in full swing and there's still plenty of varieties available at local orchards, which are experiencing a bumper crop year on pace to exceed the 807,000 bushels harvested statewide two years ago.
''It's the best I've seen in 30 years here,'' says Rob Richter of Smith Orchard in Belmont, who says that he is at a loss to explain why this year has been so much better than other years.
''We're in touch with all of the apple growers around the state and they're saying the same thing, an abundant crop with lots of large apples, no disease or weather damage. I know it's not very scientific but I almost think that it has something to do with having an old-fashioned winter with lots of cold and snow,'' says Richter.
Last year Smith Farm was named a New Hampshire Farm of Distinction and the award was presented to Richter and his wife Wende by Governor Maggie Hassan and N.H. Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill at the N.H. Farm and Forest Expo in Manchester.
The Richters have owned and operated the farm, which offers a variety of apples including McIntosh, Macoun and Cortland, since 1985.
Rob says that he and his wife view themselves as the caretakers of a long tradition of apple growing at the orchard, which still has many of the original McIntosh and Cortland trees planted by Charlie Smith in 1928, when he was entering his senior year at the University of New Hampshire.
He says that the 15-acre field which was planted by Smith, who was a long-time Laconia City Council member, had originally been an open pasture across the road from a large farmhouse on Leavitt Road. The farmhouse burned and was replaced by a smaller home the Smith family built.
Over the years Smith hired crews of workers to pick the apples but by the 1950s, when only the reddest fruit was considered acceptable for sale and there was no wholesale market for the rest, Smith made the novel step of opening his orchard to sell directly to the public, becoming what may have been the very first "pick-your-own'' operation in the entire state.
"He told us he made more selling that way than he did on the wholesale market. And it became very popular with people coming here and picking the orchard clean every year," says Rob.
There's even a story about the tradition of opening the orchard on a Friday. Smith told the Richters that he had so many complaints from local people that out-of-staters were flocking to the orchard and getting the best apples when it opened on a Saturday that he decided to open it a day earlier so that local people would enjoy the first picking.
As the older, full-size trees are lost to old age, (some 250 remain) the Richters are replacing them with dwarf and semi-dwarf trees and now have some 3,000 apple trees.
At the Surowiec Farm on Perley Hill Road in Sanbornton this year's crop is phenomenal, according to Katie Surowiec, who says that Macintosh, Cortland and Ginger Gold are now being picked.
The seven acre orchard which her husband Steve planted in the 1980s, also grows Macoun, Gala, Empire and Honey Crisp, but those varieties aren't part of the pick-your-own operation and won't be until the semi-dwarf trees grow a little more.
There are pre-picked apples available in the farms' farm stand, which will be open through November and December and features greens and vegetables grown in the farm's greenhouses throughout the colder months of the year.
At Stonybrook Farm in Gilford the 12-acre apple orchard has about 2,000 trees, with a dozen different varieties including; MacIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Ginger Gold, and Red Delicious.
The farm offers rides in and out of the orchard on weekends and its farmstand has a wide selection of mums and pumpkins for fall decorating. It also offers homemade apple cake and fresh pressed cider.
Cardigan Mountain Orchard in Alexandria also has had an excellent year according to Nancy Bleiler, who says that Macoun, McIntosh and Cortalnd are now being picked.
''There are a lot of apples this year. Some were a little smaller than we would have liked but the Cortlands are really large, as big as grapefruit.'' says Bleiler.
She and her husband Steve moved to this small country town in the late 70s with no intention of being apple farmers, they were both teachers when they made the trek up to New Hampshire. After finding this small farm, they bought it with the intention of just trying to get some apples off of the trees for their own personal enjoyment. Over 20 years later, they both have left their careers in teaching and are now focusing their attention on the farm full time,with the help of their now three adult sons.
The orchard was very run down when the Bleilers first acquired it. After a lot of hard work, they were able to bring back almost all of the original trees and many more have since been planted. The total number of trees today numbers around 1,000.
They have 15 different varieties of apples and are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Cardigan Mountain Orchard joined with local farmers, vendors, business people and residents to open Cardigan Country Store two year ago. They offer a wide range of fruits and vegetables, milk and cheeses as well as many handcrafted products.
Pies, jams, apple butter and other homemade products are available in the seasonal store in the fall.

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Hit & run in Walmart parking lot alleged

GILFORD — Police are investigating a hit-and-run that occurred around 6:15 p.m. last night on a cross-walk at Walmart.

A Gilford police supervisor said a man driving a black SUV struck a female employee but left the scene after giving his name and plate number to witnesses.

He said the woman appeared to be not seriously injured but was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia by ambulance to be evaluated.

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