2 men swim to safety after SUV breaks through ice

MOULTONBOROUGH — Two ice fishermen men who were riding in a Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle when it broke through the ice Friday near Whaleback Island on Lake Winnipesaukee were able to escape from the vehicle as it sank and clamber onto the ice where they were picked up by snowmobilers and taken to shore.
Fire Chief David Bengston said that the two local men had driven onto the ice in the Balmoral Beach area and were near Whaleback Point at around 12:30 p.m. when the vehicle broke through the ice.
He said that they were able to swim to an area where the ice was safer and were walking back towards the shore when they were picked up by fellow ice fishermen on snowmobiles.
Bengston said that when they arrived back at Balmoral Beach, they were treated by rescue personnel from the Tuftonboro Fire Department, who had brought the department's air boat to the scene, and Stewart's Ambulance.
"Both showed signs of hypothermia but refused treatment and got rides home from their friends," said Bengston.
He said that the area where the SUV went into the lake is between 15 and 30 feet deep and that the Fish and Game Department was called to the scene and will be working with the owner of the vehicle to determine how to get it out of the lake. Bengston said that the Department of Environmental Services is aware of the situation.

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Three graduate from drug abuse program, look forward to better lives outside of jail (605) (photo)

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The first three inmates of the Belknap County Jail to complete the Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and EducatioN program, or CORE, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program, graduated yesterday at a ceremony Keith Gray, superintendent of the Department of Corrections, called "a big deal for them and a big deal for us."

Surrounded by family and friends, all three — Brianna D'Amore, Joseph McCormick and James Rivers — echoed D'Amore, who said that the program "has given me a fighting chance at life."

Gray noted that for too long his department has been unable to offer substance abuse programming for want of resources, personnel and space, but stressed that "the CORE program will be the driving force behind our community corrections program in 2017.

The Department of Corrections is offering the program through a partnership with Horizons Counseling Center of Gilford, whose executive director Jacqui Abikoff told the graduates she hopes "they make good use of the program" and reminded them "It's just the beginning." She said that the three-month program consists of between 12 and 15 hours a week in class and "lots of homework" aimed at fostering a thorough understanding of the physical, mental and behavioral aspects of addiction and developing a strategy for each individual to pursue their recovery. "Each one of them has a plan to combat addiction and manage their recovery," she said.

"It's a life-long battle," Abikoff said, adding that the program provides recovering addicts with tools to combat their addiction and manage their recovery. "It treats their addiction and changes their thinking," she said. "They will understand the way their addiction talks to them."

Travis Dickinson, an inmate enrolled the program and set to graduate in March, congratulated the three graduates, who he said "persevered through adversity to be here today." Noting that "addiction has destroyed so much and hurt so many," he said "We learn that we cannot cure this disease ourselves." The program, he continued, "cultivates an awareness of life," which includes a respect and affection for others.

"Simple acts of selflessness become commonplace," he remarked. "We now have hope. We dream again."

Eying the three graduates, he reminded them that the "responsibility of a clean and sober life rests squarely on their shoulders."

McCormack confessed he was nervous about what would happen when he completed the program, whether he would be capable of resisting addiction. But, he said that he is confident of his recovery.

"I'm alive, healthy and sober with the opportunity to be be a good father," he said. "I have a second chance at life."

D'Amore was all smiles and aglow, but confessed "public speaking is not my strength," then said that "this program has given me a second chance at life."

Rivers declined to step to the podium, but later said that he was pleased and proud to have completed the program and looked forward rejoining his family and raising his son.

While D'Amore will be released shortly, both McCormick and Rivers still have time to serve. Abikoff said she expected both will qualify for work release and electronic monitoring, which will provide a gradual return to the community and an opportunity to pursue their recovery in a managed setting.

The first graduates of the Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and Education (CORE) program at the Belknap County Jail — Joe McCormick second from left) James Rivers (center) and Brianna D'Amore (right) celebrated their success at the county complex yesterday. Alongside his partner Brittany Poole, McCormick holds his two month old daughter Serenity while Rivers, with his wife Mimmet, holds their six month old son Parker. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

The first graduates of the Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and Education (CORE) program at the Belknap County Jail — Joe McCormick second from left) James Rivers (center) and Brianna D'Amore (right) celebrated their success at the county complex yesterday. Alongside his partner Brittany Poole, McCormick holds his two-month-old daughter Serenity while Rivers, with his sister, Mimmet, holds her six-month-old son, Parker. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

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Abenaki, a community's ski area

With a 0-14mpg blast Elizabeth Gagne holds on tight as she loads the rope tow at the Abenaki Ski Area in Wolfeboro.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

With a 0-14mpg blast Elizabeth Gagne holds on tight as she loads the rope tow at the Abenaki Ski Area in Wolfeboro.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

WOLFEBORO — Though it's been in operation for 80 years, Abenaki Ski Area has lately been something of an unknown entity outside of the Wolfeboro area. The secret's getting out, though, thanks to the dramatic improvements which the town-owned facility has undergone over the past decade, highlighted this year by a new lodge.

Over the past decade, the ski hill has been kept ever busier with club teams, school groups, and, when it's open to the general public, it is a favored place for beginners as well as local kids.

"For those of us who have been involved in it for a long time, it's very gratifying," said Ted Newman, of the Friends of Abenaki, a fundraising organization. The current state of the ski hill is due to generous support, both from private benefactors as well as Wolfeboro taxpayers, he said, though it was not too long ago that the recreational facility was at risk of being abandoned.

The Abenaki Ski Area, located on Route 109A, dates back to 1936, when the members of the Abenaki Outing Club cut the first trails on the land known as Poor Farm Hill. A rope tow and base lodge were added shortly thereafter. For the following two decades, the hill was popular among skiers, both locals and visitors from throughout the Northeast.

By the 1990s, though, inconsistent snow conditions led to a pattern of infrequent use. The area never opened in the winters of 2003-2004 or 2005-2006. There were fewer than 1,000 skier visits in the year in between. There were grumblings in town by some who felt the town should quit spending its resources on the facility, since it was used so little, and let the trails return to forest. Fortunately for young local skiers, there were enough who felt differently. The Friends of Abenaki was organized in 2005. By the winter of 2006-2007, the group had added a new snow groomer, a new rope tow for the beginner hill, and most importantly, portable snow-making equipment.

"If you're going to have a beach, you need to have water to swim in," said Newman. The same goes for a ski area: it isn't much good if there isn't snow. The portable snow guns made it possible for the hill, with its four trails, to have consistent snow as long as there is cold weather.

If you make snow, skiers will come. Nearly 2,000 skier visits were recorded in the winter of 2007-2008. That figure has grown each year, with 7,436 visits last winter.

Abenaki now has permanent snow-making equipment, fed by a pond at the base of the hill. Earlier this winter, the town cut the ribbon for its new lodge, which replaced one built in 1940, and which enjoyed broad support in the town.

The new lodge represented the most expensive upgrade sought by the Friends of Abenaki. In 2014, the group had plans drawn up for a four-season lodge, which would cost $600,000. The group was able to raise $350,000 through private donations, and asked the town to contribute the rest. The warrant article, at Town Meeting, was given 80 percent support, a gleaming seal of approval by the taxpayers. Afterward, it was learned that the town could use grant money to cover most of the taxpayers' burden.

Support for the lodge project surely indicates how valuable residents consider their ski hill. Christine Collins, recreation director for the town, said the resident rates for use are kept very affordable. Wolfeboro children can buy a season pass for $30, a family season pass for residents is $105. Nonresident rates are more, but still a fraction of the cost at a larger ski area. Rental equipment is also available, at a similarly reasonable rate.

"We wanted to keep it affordable for the residents," said Collins. After all, town funds are utilized for the upkeep of the property. "They are paying for it through their taxes."

Newman noted that the Abenaki Ski Area opens skiing to many who wouldn't be able to make it to Gunstock or King Pine.

"Like many towns, we're not all wealthy here," he said. Many of his fellow townspeople struggle economically, he noted. "The have families, we want to accommodate all of them."

Monday and Tuesday are reserved for schools and club teams. The ski hill is open Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., and opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Collins said that there is a group of a few dozen local youngsters who treat the ski area as their after-school club, taking the fast rope tow up to the top of the 200-foot-high hill, zooming down the 1,300-foot run, and then grabbing the rope to do it all again.

Some of those kids have grown up to be teenagers that come back to work at the facility, many more will become parents whose children will take their first runs there. Alongside them will be other children, whose parents spent many a winter afternoon on that very slope.

As Newman said, it all goes back to that same sentiment 80 years ago, that a group of people can come together to make something good.

"Really, it's about community involvement," he said.

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