Board authorizes new stop sign on Belknap Mountain Rd., at Gilford Glen Rd.

GILFORD — After listening to at least five residents from a Belknap Mountain Road neighborhood at a public hearing Wednesday night, Selectmen voted 2 to 1 to install a stop sign at the "T" intersection with Gilford Glen Road. Selectman Richard Grenier voted against the move.

That there was a problem with the intersection came to the Selectboard's attention earlier this month when Public Works Director Peter Nourse told them he came very close to being in an accident there and felt there should be a stop sign on Gilford Glen Road.

Jim Babcock of Haywagon Road, which is a loop off of Gilford Glen Rd, and Casey and Kara Crum of Gilford Glen Rd. objected. They said exiting their road at the "T" was difficult in the winter because it is up a slope and a stop sign would make it nearly impossible for them to get out if there is snow and ice on the road.

They suggested placing the stop sign on Belknap Mountain Road would be a safer choice because it is easier for traffic to stop there as opposed to Gilford Glen Rd.. They also said the stop sign would be more visible.

A woman from Marjorie's Way, which is further up Belknap Mountain Road made the same argument as Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee — against stopping traffic on Belknap Mountain Road — because they both consider as the primary thoroughfare. Bean Burpee noted that in a commonly used traffic manual says traffic is nearly always stopped at feeder roads and he recommended placing the sign at Gilford Glen Rd.

Nourse said he really didn't have an opinion on where the sign should be but said traffic should be stopped at the "T" from at least one direction.

Selectman Chan Eddy said that in his opinion, safety should come before standard practices and said he would support putting a stop sign on Belknap Mountain Road at the "T" and at some point in the near future putting at "stop ahead" sign further up the road.

Grenier said that he didn't want to add any stop signs at all and felt that a warning sign about "T" intersection should suffice.

Nourse also recommended the stop sign on Belknap Mountain Road at the intersection with Weeks Road should be moved to Weeks Road. He noted the sign was originally placed on Belknap Mountain Road because Weeks Road hosted a busy working farm but that is no longer the case. Selectmen agreed with him and voted unanimously to move the stop sign from Belknap Mountain Road to Weeks Road.

In other action, Town Administrator Scott Dunn told selectmen that replacing the boiler room piping, which is 30-years-old and rotted, in the new police station is imperative and he and the police administration don't want any piping failures in a brand new police station.

Selectmen agreed voted unanimously to take $9,800 from the building maintenance capital reserve account to complete the work.

Dunn also told selectmen that the N.H. Department of Transportation said "several" street lights are being turned off along Route 11, Route 11-A and the Laconia Bypass. Selectmen said they would like to see which ones were not being lit before they decide if the town should assume the cost of operating them. Dunn said they have until October 15.

Nourse said the town received two proposals for re-shingling the roof on the Rowe House on Belknap Mountain Road but neither of them addressed the historic components of the project. He recommended targeting historic preservation renovation specialists in the next bid offering because the job has to be done to meet both state and federal historic standards. The project is being paid for partly by the town and partly through a Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (L-CHIP) and the grant is good through the end of 2016.

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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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