International leaf peepers

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Phyllis, Jerusha and Jonah Kramer, residents of Costa Rica, are enjoying their second vacation in New Hampshire during the fall foliage season and are staying at Cottage Place on Squam Lake in Holderness. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Overseas tourists find NH foliage a must-see attraction


HOLDERNESS — Tourists from overseas are showing up during New Hampshire's fall foliage season in ever-increasing numbers, much to the delight of businesses like Cottage Place on Squam Lake, where owner Susan Smith says she has hosted visitors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Russia in recent months.
Currently she's hosting a family from Costa Rica, which is making a return visit to the area. She said the foliage season is a big draw for tourists from afar, drawing as many or more than the summer does.
She's seen an upward trend in overseas tourism ever since she and her mother, Beverly Smith, purchased the 1950s era cottage colony in 2002 and refurbished the heritage property while maintaining its rustic interiors.
Phyllis Kramer of Nosara, Costa Rica, is staying at the Cottage Place with her daughter, Jerusha, and grandson, Jonah, who is 7.
Kramer, who grew up in Brooklyn, moved to Costa Rica in 2000 and said her husband, Howard, operates a coffee growing and adventure tourism business there and stayed behind in Costa Rica because he's not a fan of cold weather. "But I like the seasons I grew up with and like to come here for the fall season. This is the best place in the world for great foliage," says Kramer.
She said Jerusha, 28, and Jonah, both hold dual Costa Rican and American citizenships. While staying in Holderness, they have enjoyed visits to the Squam Lakes Science Center, hiking trails around Squam Lake, as well as dining out at the Corner House Inn in Center Sandwich and Walter's Basin Restaurant. They're also looking forward to visits to Funspot, the world's largest arcade, and attending this Saturday's New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in downtown Laconia.
Smith's experience with increased foreign tourism isn't unique.
Joe Ouellette, director of sales and marketing at Mill Falls in Meredith said, "We've had a great 2016 thus far. We've met or surpassed most of our benchmarks for the summer season. Mother Nature was very good to us here in the Lakes Region and that beautiful weather brought a steady stream of guests, both from our transient as well as our group markets. That trend is continuing into the fall. We've had tour groups from Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Mexico, to name a few."
Amy Landers of the Lakes Region Tourism Association said that many member businesses are also reporting increases in foreign visitors which are booked through late October, including many people from Asia and South America,
Lorrie Harnois of Discover New England, which is based in Portsmouth, said New England had 1.25 million overseas visitors in 2005, which grew to 2.18 million by 2015. The total economic impact of those visits was estimated at $2.1 billion in 2015. She points out that those numbers do not include visitors from Canada and Mexico.
Harnois said that visitors cite shopping, sightseeing, art galleries and museums, small towns and countryside, national parks and monuments, history and culture, camping and hiking, as well as snow sports, as reasons why they visit New England.
She says that Discover New England will host a major event with international tourism groups at the Mount Washington Resort next April. She expects that 75 international tour operators and approximately 300 New England tourism industry members will attend the annual Tourism Summit and International Marketplace in April.
"We are planning to have people from the USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries." said Harnois. She said Discover New England will have representatives at similar events in Europe, Asia and South America next year.

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Susan Smith of Cottage Place on Squam Lake says that she is seeing more overseas visitors in recent years and in recent months has hosted tourists from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Russia. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Gilmanton selectman admits email mistake


GILMANTON — Selectman Marshall Bishop said Wednesday that he made a mistake when he sent an email from his town account to Zoning Board of Adjustments Chairman Elizabeth Hackett complaining about a different member of that board and asking for his resignation.

In the letter, Bishop complained about ZBA member Mike Teunessen, who before he voted against Bishop's request for a special exception for his restaurant at Gilmanton Winery, said he felt that Bishop, like others, hadn't made any effort to conform to town regulations but expected the board would give an "after the fact" approval.

"I should have used my personal email account," Bishop said. "It was personal to me as a taxpayer."

The email exchange between Bishop and Hackett is the latest in a series of events that have plagued Bishop both in his role as a selectman and in his private role as the owner of a local winery and eatery. Since assuming office, the Planning Board has questioned whether he has the proper approvals he needs to operate his business. Earlier this week, its members voted that he should present an updated and current site plan review before its Nov. 10 meeting or face a cease-and-desist order.

Bishop has said that, in his opinion, he has complied with all of the requests of the previous Planning Board that gave him his approvals and that it is only since he became a selectman that his 4-½-year-old business has come under scrutiny.

He also went to the ZBA, at the request of the Planning Board, to get a back-dated special exception to operate a restaurant in an agricultural zone by converting his four-bedroom home partially into a restaurant. Teunessen was the lone dissenting vote against, saying he is tired of Gilmanton residents going forward with projects that are contrary to the town's zoning ordinances and then coming to the ZBA for after-the-fact approvals.

"I was just turned off by the fact that he put me in the same category as the other people," said Bishop, who again reiterated that he feels he has done everything the former Planning Board and town planning employees told him to do.
Once Bishop learned that Teunessen never spoke to The Laconia Daily Sun and what was reported did not come from any interviews but was a reflection of what happened at the meeting, he said he has gotten over his opposition to Teunessen's vote against him.

Bishop said in Hackett's reply to him, she expressed faith in Teunessen's ability to be fair with all ZBA applicants and he accepts her assessment.

But Bishop's frustration with his personal situation has spilled into his role as selectman. He said he made a request of the other two members of the board to go into a nonpublic session, as a private citizen and taxpayer, to discuss his situation but the other board members refused. He said he understands why the others made the decision they did.

Bishop said he is in the process of hiring his own attorney to represent his interests before the Planning Board, and possibly again before the ZBA, because he has to protect his business interests but definitely wants to be in full compliance with the town.

"I want to do what I need to do, but I don't want to get screwed in the process," he said.

Alleged victim painted as liar in rape trial

Belmont businessman charged with sexual assault of teenager decades ago


LACONIA — The attorney for Belmont businessman Steve Price, who is accused of sexually assaulting a girl nearly two decades ago, spent most of day two of Price's trial trying to paint his accuser as a liar by challenging inconsistencies in her testimonies.

For nearly three hours, attorney James Moir picked away at the now 34-year-old woman, who was granted immunity from a charge of stealing from Price so she could testify he repeatedly had sexual relations with her when she was between the ages of 13 and 17.

When facing a jail sentence for stealing $30,000 in jewelry and coins from Price in 2014, the alleged victim made her accusations against him the day she was to plead guilty. Her lawyer told the Belknap County Attorney about the allegations, which eventually led to the state dropping charges for theft against her in exchange for her testimony against Price about the rape charges. Price faces four separate charges of pattern aggravated felonious sexual assault with the pattern meaning that the assault allegedly took place repeated over a four-year period of time.

Most specifically, Moir spent day two of his cross examination challenging the differences between statements she made to police and to a forensic sexual assault interviewer in October of 2014, when she initially made the accusations, to statements she made during pre-trial preparations in August of 2016.

The alleged victim fended off most of his pointed questions by saying she was on drugs in 2014 and didn't remember many things she said to Belmont Detective Eliza Gustafson who headed the investigation into the alleged sexual assaults.

There were four interviews Moir referred to in his cross-examination, two in October 2014 and two in August 2016, and much of his focus was on the people she said either knew, saw or suspected that she and Price had a sexual relationship when she was a child.

She testified there were at least two women who had sex with her while Price watched but backed off her assertions when he started pressing her about what they would say when questioned under oath. She first said there was one woman who participated in sex with both of them, but under cross-examination changed her story to say that she walked in on Price while he was have sex with the other woman. She also said that she only kissed the other girl in front of Price because, at the time, both she and the girl were "bi-curious."

Moir also wanted to know why she didn't tell Gustafson in 2014 about the voyeurism or two people identified as J.J. and Ryan, whom she now claims saw her in a compromising situation with Price.

Much of the alleged victim's story about witnesses centers around J.J., because she said under direct examination that he may have caught a glimpse of her and Price having sex in a work trailer and later informed the police, who investigated.

When questioned in the late 1990s by Belmont Police Officer Steven Crockett about Price, she said she lied to him at the time because she was "in love with Mr. Price" and didn't want to get him in any trouble. Crockett is expected to testify as a prosecution witness today.

Moir wanted her to explain why she never told Gustafson about this in her October 2014 interview and why she said during her 2016 trial preparation that it was her brother Jeff who actually saw them, which reduced her to tears but didn't elicit a real answer.

Her response to all of Moir's inquiries about who knew and who she identified as knowing was that Belmont is a "small town" and rumors about her and Price were rampant at the time because people thought it was unusual for a young teenaged girl to be hanging around with a grown man.

As part of her testimony Monday and under direct questioning from the prosecutor, she said that she would be at Lakes Region Fiberglass daily, largely because she was babysitting for Price's granddaughter and that that was when many of the sexual encounters between the two occurred.

Moir asked her if she recalled Jean Price telling her to never take the baby into the shop because of possible exposure to chemicals and fiberglass and she said she recalled the conversation, agreeing that it was harmful to expose the child to such substances.

But when he asked her if she remembered that on her second day of her babysitting job, Jean Price found her with the baby in the shop and fired her, she said she knew that she babysat for the child more than twice, but didn't directly answer the question.

As to the theft of jewelry, the victim has said that she drove to Price's house while she was living in Bristol to get money from him, as she said she had done many times in the past. She said he told her he couldn't help her but left the safe open and told her to "do what (she) had to do. When the prosecutor asked her if she had a valid license when she made the trip, she said she did and that she owned a Toyota.

Moir challenged her statements about having a valid driver's license during that time. Under a second direct examination by the prosecution, she said she understood what immunity meant and that she couldn't be prosecuted for anything she said, she responded by saying her driver's license may have been suspended at the time but that she often had friends drive her places. She said she couldn't remember how she got to Price's house the day she took the jewelry from the safe.

The alleged victim also said that she lied in 2014 to a now-retired Franklin police officer who now runs a pawn shop in Bristol by telling him the jewelry was given to her by a relative when he bought some of it. She said she knew he was a police officer.

She also said that she remembered returning there because she couldn't cash the check he gave her because she didn't have an ID when she went to the bank. The shop owner ripped up the first check and wrote a second one to her male roommate who did have an ID. She testified she didn't remember why she didn't have her license or ID on her when she was at the bank.

Moir's further attempts to paint the woman as a liar included asking her if it was true that she reached out to a friend while she was on probation for some clean urine for a test. She admitted that was true.

The trial resumes this morning in the Belknap County Superior Court with more witnesses from the prosecution.