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Fire at Giguere Auto damages Jeep, tools

TILTON — Fire spread through the interior of a garage at Giguere Auto Wholesalers at 968 Laconia Road on Friday evening. Chief Michael Sitar of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department said that the fire was reported at 8:19 p.m., and Engine 1 from the Laconia Fire Department was the first to reach the scene followed closely behind by a crew from his department.

"It was bang, bang — them and us," he said.

Lt. Chad Vaillancourt of Laconia said the immediate challenge was running a hose line to the interior of the  56-foot by 24-foot wooden building without opening the garage doors, which would have added fuel to the fire. He said that firefighters entered though the rear of the building and quickly knocked down the flames.

He described the damage, which included tools and equipment, as well as a Jeep, as "significant." Sitar said that despite the damage he thought the building is "salvageable."

He said the cause of the fire is not suspicious, but remains under investigation.

In addition to the units from Laconia and Tilton-Northfield, crews from Franklin, Belmont and Sanbornton were also dispatched to the scene, which was cleared two hours after the fire was reported.

– Michael Kitch

Teacher died in Alton crash Friday

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

ALTON — A collision on Route 28 near Stagecoach Road around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, when the highway was covered with snow, took the life of a local woman driving one vehicle and injured the driver and two passengers in the other.

Kathy Kenny, 52, of Alton, a wife and mother of two who was a longtime para-educator at Kingswood Middle School, was taken to Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro by Stewart's Ambulance, where she was later pronounced dead. Aaron Bronson, principal of the middle school, informed students and parents of the tragedy on Saturday  and arranged for teachers and counselors to meet with students during the school day on Monday.

A preliminary investigation by police indicated that Kenny was traveling southbound when her Toyota Prius crossed into the northbound lane and struck an oncoming Range Rover, driven by Randall Parker, 70, of Tuftonboro. The vehicles collided in the northbound lane and came to rest in the northbound breakdown lane. Police said that the inclement weather and slick roadway appear to have contributed to collision.

Parker was not seriously injured, but his passengers Katherine Mederios, 67, of Nashua, and Robert Eaton, 64, of Lincoln, Rhode Island, were both transported to Huggins Hospital where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Police urge anyone with information about the fatal collision to contact Officer Phillip Hunter of the Alton Police Department.

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)

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