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Franklin Outing Club - Outdoors enthusiasts are blazing a trail to the future

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A snow kayaker celebrates finishing a run down the slope. (Courtesy photo)

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

FRANKLIN — In the middle of an old-fashioned New England winter, with lots of snow and cold weather, the idea to host a downhill kayak race event – the first of its kind on the eastern half of North America – seemed solid. But then a warm spell settled during the week prior to the March 4 event, and the recently snow-covered Veterans Memorial Recreational Ski Area was looking rather bare.

There was more at stake than an afternoon of ill-advised fun. More, even, than the opportunity to raise funds for the Franklin Outing Club and the Mill City Park initiative. The Boat Bash Snow Crash downhill kayak party was a declaration of community and vitality – a counter-argument to those who see the empty storefronts on Central Street as indication of a city whose best days are in the past. Cancel the event? Not a chance.

"The nice thing about doing things in Franklin," said Tim Morrill, Outing Club board member, "When you do volunteer efforts, everyone gets involved. It's pretty fun to watch the amount of people that jump in to help out."

An old groomer, which had logged many hours on the community ski hill, was repaired at the top of the hill in frigid conditions. An improvised snow-making apparatus was assembled using borrowed and re-purposed components. Electricians, landscaping contractors and builders arrived with heavy equipment. The work went through the night, making snow, moving snow, and shaping parallel runs down the slope. The party was on.

The Veterans Memorial Recreational Ski Area first opened in 1962, built in the Great Gains Forest conservation land as a living memorial to veterans. In fact, it was veterans of World War II who built the ski area, located on Flagpole Road.

"Back in the day, this used to be a place where, even if your kids didn't ski, you came up here every Thursday night to have dinner and congregate," said Jim Jones, of the Franklin Outing Club.

But things petered out, especially in recent years. Weather sometimes was to blame, such as the past winter, when there wasn't enough natural snow for the ski area to open. The meteorological tables turned this year, though, and the ski area's Facebook page is full of pictures of people, including many children, heading down the slope.

The Outing Club was also able to hold all the events of its annual Winter Carnival – which concluded with the March 4 kayaking event – including the Webster Lake Fishing Derby. The derby wasn't held last year due to warm weather, but this year nearly 600 people registered for the event, including 218 children. The Winter Carnival kicked off on Jan. 28 with a casserole supper and bonfire, and also included a pancake breakfast, cardboard sled races and skiing and snowboard races.

Despite great conditions this year – kayak race excepted – membership in the Outing Club is lagging.

"Membership is extremely low this year," said Jones. In order for the club to thrive, he said it would need around 250 dues-paying members. There are fewer than half that now.

Yet, in the same way that they look at empty storefronts and see opportunity instead of decline, supporters of the Outing Club are optimistic, and are hoping to convert a good winter, capped with a novel event, into long-term interest in the club.

One of those supporters is Marty Parichand, an Epsom resident who is one of the founders of Outdoors New England, a sporting goods shop that specializes in whitewater paddle sports. He is also part of the effort to bring a whitewater park to the stretch of the Winnipesaukee River that runs through downtown. 

Outdoor activities could be Franklin's new calling card, Parichand believes. There's the nearby Highland Bike Park in Northfield, a destination for mountain bikers. Great Gains Forest already has many miles of hiking or biking trails, and will be opening a woodland-style disc golf course this summer.

As such, a vibrant Outing Club is as much about economy as it is about community.

"It's those things, mixed in with Mill City Park, that will be a huge catalyst to keep things moving forward," said Parichand. "There's a lot going on, a lot of positive things to be excited about."

How many other people are similarly excited, and want to be part of that positive change? An answer will be provided on May 6, when the Outing Club will be hosting a spaghetti dinner to discuss the club's plans, to see what direction its members want to go, and to grow its membership.

"There's a lot of kids that I grew up with here, who I now see coming with their own kids," said Morrill.

"Those are the people we need to reach, that's the only way this is going forward," said Jones.

Marichand said the kayak event provided "undeniable traction," as nearly half of the large crowd that turned out for the event were people who had never before set foot in the lodge.

"The future is going to be that crowd," Jones said. "It's that crowd that has that kind of disposable income that are willing to come up here... It's really important that we attract those young Millenials."

Kathy Fuller, treasurer of the Outing Club and daughter of one of its founders, said it's encouraging to see interest in the club renewed.

"I think I see it as an organization that is expanding, that is growing, that is offering new outdoors activities, which is where the original founders wanted it to go," said Fuller, noting that the club's original badge design included a canoer. "I'm excited at the partnerships, the opportunities, (which) bring new people in. I'm excited to see what happens next."

03-25 Franklin Outing skiers

Young skiers hone their skills at the Veterans Memorial Recreational Ski Area in Franklin. (Courtesy photo)

Maine man arrested in Wolfeboro after other drivers call in on disturbing driving

WOLFEBORO — A Maine man was arrested after police were called about a driver that couldn't stay in his lane.

Two separate complaints came to Wolfeboro Police on Monday, March 20, at 5: 18 p.m., saying they were following a vehicle that was "all over the road" on South Main Street. One caller reported the driver passed  them in the breakdown lane then sped up and drove in a reckless manner in the other lane.

The driver then passed the Wolfeboro Police Department, where Officer Swift saw the vehicle, caught up to him on Center Street and observed several line violations, leading to a traffic stop.

Christopher McLean, 54, of Kennebunk, Maine, was charged with driving while intoxicated, negligent driving, transportation of drugs in a motor vehicle, possession of drugs and yellow line, and was taken into protective custody.

Mclean refused to take a series of field sobriety tests and refused a breathalyzer test once back at the police station. Mclean was brought to the Carroll County Jail, where he was later released on bail once sober.

Mclean was given an arraignment date of April 5 at 8 a.m. in the Third Circuit Court in Ossipee.

03-27 Christopher McLean

Christopher McLean

Sanbornton moves to restaff weary road workers

By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN

SANBORNTON — The town interviewed candidates to fill a sixth slot in the Department of Public Works Friday, after the department director made it clear he needed a snow plow truck driver after an exhausting winter.

Multiple snow storms and rain storms created freezing conditions that put pressure on road departments and their budgets.

In mid-February, selectmen learned that the town was over its sand and salt budget by $15,000. The budget for contracted snow removal also ran low, but department overtime funding remained stable, aided by the use of contracted plow drivers.

Brian Bordeau, director of the Public Works Department in Sanbornton, said this winter presented a worst-case scenario, as storms pounded the town and its nearly 90 miles of roads while the department was down a driver.

"We've always had six people for the highway department," he said. "This particular winter, we lost two in the fall. We found another employee and hired him. This year, we had an additional truck with a plow wing and sander that we hadn't had in the past to help make our job easier. So the lack of that one person basically fell on my shoulders to climb into a plow truck with a sander and do the same type of work that they're doing as a plow member. The rest of the guys stepped up and took on additional responsibilities."

At a selectmen's meeting on Wednesday, Chairman Karen Ober floated the idea of not replacing the sixth plow truck driver and using contract services instead.

Bordeau said he needs the sixth driver as well as the contracted plow services. The board took no action as a result of the discussion, and town staff indicated that interviews were taking place Friday to fill the sixth driver's position.

Bordeau said he was surprised by the suggestion to leave the job unfilled, saying the department puts in "an average of four to five hours after a storm is over to clean up, hit the routes, get the roads plowed."

"That was kind of a surprise," he admitted of the selectmen's discussion.

The town conducted a privatization study about three years ago and found that in some cases to save money, the town could add a hired subcontractor rather than buy another truck for plowing, Bordeau said.

The contracted plowing would have eased the crunch this past winter if staffing had remained stable, he said.

"In this case, we were down this one person, so it was almost like we didn't feel the full effect of it. It did help a little bit with the overtime because that size truck was bigger than what we have," he said.

The town website lists 89.1 miles of town roads or state highways in Sanbornton that are maintained by the town.

Three years ago, a push to privatize the Public Works Department resulted in a final determination that such a move would not save money, but the town did try privatizing a snow plow route, which opened the door to subcontracting, according to minutes of the Highway Study Committee.

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