Thousands of pumpkins distributed to region's schools in anticipation of Saturday's festival

LACONIA — Representatives of more than 40 schools in the Lakes Region yesterday began collecting some 4,200 pumpkins, which the students will spend the balance of the week carving in preparation for displaying them at the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.

Early in the morning the pumpkins arrived at Visa Foods in cardboard bins loaded aboard a tractor-trailer from Newmont Farm in Bradford, Vermont and were off-loaded by a forklift. Ruth Sterling, who is managing the festival for Let It Shine, Inc., said that Belmont Elementary School, Gilford Middle School and Woodland Heights School all requested more than 400 pumpkins while Elm Street School, Laconia Middle School and Pleasant Street School each asked for about 300.

Sterling said that that the carving parties at the schools, many of them drawing parents as well as students, are one of the highlights of the festival. "This week is when the kids make the festival their own," she said.

Several officers of the Laconia Police Department, along with members of the Public Works Department and off-duty firefighters, were on hand to help with distributing the pumpkins. "I put out a call on our Facebook page," Sterling said, "and they just turned up. I've never had anyone in uniform help out before," The officers and firefighters tossed the pumpkins from bins to trucks, apparently with only one casualty.

Walt Gladstone, who owns and operates Newmont Farm, said that he grows pumpkins on 175 acres while raising corn on another 1,100 acres and caring for 1,400 Holstein cows and 1,300 heifers. The pumpkins are sold to grocery stores throughout New England. But, Gladstone said "the grocery stores only want the perfect ones." He said that with the harvest in full swing and frost in the forecast "we were concerned to get the pumpkins off the ground, but worked hard to get ahead of it." Gladstone said he was pleased Laconia had chosen to host and perpetuate the festival.

Sterling said that the farm has stocked the festival with pumpkins for years as a favor. In addition to those distributed to the schools expects as many as 3,000 more for the community carving center at the Bank of New Hampshire before the week is out.



Laconia parking garage repair work underway; level 2 expected to reopen in time for Pumpkin Festival

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that access to the middle deck of the downtown parking garage is expected to be restored by the end of next week, in time for the space to be used during the Pumpkin Festival the next day.

Bob Ayers of R.M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth, who is supervising the work, said that where the exposed steel has been weakened by corrosion, at the foot of vertical beams supporting the ramps and along the runners of the ramps themselves, supports are being strengthened by welding fresh steel over the corroded sections. In addition, he said that some of the galvanized steel pans, into which the concrete was poured to form the ramps, are also corroded and will be reinforced with four-by-four pressure-treated lumber as a temporary measure.

City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he has yet to receive an estimate of what the work to reopen the garage will cost. He indicated that the upper deck will likely remain closed through the winter and repairs on the remaining ramps undertaken next spring. Bob Durfee, an engineer with Dubois & King, Inc., is assessing the condition of the entire garage, but has yet to complete his report.

City officials closed the garage on September 28 when an inspection found that the steel supporting the ramps had been compromised corrosion. A week earlier Durfee began assessing the condition of the garage at the request of Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works. Durfee said that he expected to find some damage that would require repair, but did not anticipate the extensive corrosion he found. The most severe damage, he explained, is to the ramps, where the concentration of road salt is greatest.

The garage was built in 1973 and opened in 1974. Durfee said that the garage with its exposed steel supporting ramps and decks is the only one of its kind he has encountered in the northeast, where reinforced concrete is preferred for its capacity to withstand constant exposure to road salt during the winter. Since then it underwent a major upgrade in 1996, which included repainting the steelwork. In 2005, repairs were made to the decks and the middle deck was overlaid and sealed and leakage into the commercial spaces beneath the garage was addressed in 2008.

As part of condominium-like arrangement, the city owns approximately two-thirds of the parking spaces on the second and third levels of the garage, as well as the access ramps. 

Belmont ready to break ground on Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail

BELMONT — Ground will be broken early next week for Phase I of the Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail according to Rick Ball, Belmont Land Use technician.
Ball says the 1.8-mile long trail will extend from the Agway store on Rte. 3 near the Mosquito Bridge to the Laconia city line. It will run behind the Belknap Mall and will provide walking and bicycle route into Laconia and will cost $726,278 — 80 percent of which is being reimbursed by a N.H. Department of Transportation Alternative Highway Grant.
He said $99,012 has been set aside to provide engineering and oversight for the project, which has been in the works for about 12 years and is part of a Transportation Enhancement Program funded through state and federal highway money.
The phase 1 pathway will mostly run in the railway right-of-way, along the shore of Lake Winnisquam. A chain link fence along the trail, separating the pathway from the railroad tracks, will cost about $200,000, according to Ball.
Nelson Companies of Center Conway has been awarded the contract for the project with HEB Engineers, Inc. of North Conway doing the engineering.
Ball said that work will continue to around Thanksgiving this year and that the 10-foot wide paved walkway will be completed in the Spring of 2016. When completed the trail will link up with Phase 2 of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) trail in Laconia, which will extend from Veterans Square to the Belmont town line and provide nearly four consecutive miles of walking and biking trails in the two communities.
Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, says he anticipates that bids for the project will be sought by the end of the year with work getting underway next Spring.
Two obstacles that have slowed construction of the stretch from Veterans Square to Belmont were overcome recently.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) granted the wetlands permit required to cross Durkee Brook in the vicinity of Bartlett Beach. The permit was required for the grading and filling necessary to provide drainage for the trail, replace an existing culvert, construct a boardwalk and build a 26-foot bridge over the brook.
Meanwhile, finessing a way past two abandoned wooden sheds along the railway just north of Water Street, had hindered the final design of Phase 2 of the trail for months. The New Hampshire Bureau of Rails designated the sheds, which have been neither used nor maintained since regular rail traffic ceased years ago, as "historic" structures to be preserved not demolished. Since the sheds stand in the route of trail through the railroad right-of-way, a way around them had to be found.
Beetle said that negotiations were opened with Lionel Labonte of Stratham Tire, which owns the property surrounding the sheds, for easement that would allow the trail to bypass them. Last December, before agreement was reached, Labonte passed away. However, Beetle said that Labonte's daughter, Denise Littlefield, who succeeded her father at the firm, has offered to donate enough land to the city to bend the trail around the sheds. That donation has not yet been finalized.
He said that the WOW Trail has approximately $750,000 in hand, including $400,000 appropriated by the city, and has already funded the design and engineering portion of the project.

Phase I of the WOW Trail extends from Lakeport Square south to North Main Street, again largely following railroad tracks.