"Ultimately, it's up to our community to say yes to a comprehensive regional trail system around here, advocate for a more walkable city, and help usher the project along by investing in its construction."
We wrote these words less than a year ago, encouraging the Lakes Region to look at the regional trail system not only as a nice path for residents to enjoy, but as a means for economic development. Since then, the City of Laconia has voted to make a significant investment of Downtown Tax Increment Financing funds in the walkability of the city, including the expansion of the Riverwalk and Phase 2 of the WOW Trail. As well, the Town of Belmont approved two warrant articles that will make it possible to build Phase 1 of their Winni Trail this summer.
Quite simply, enthusiasm for the regional trail effort is being backed by solid investment.
Nationwide, rail trails have proven time and again to be economic anchors that stimulate tourism and maintain and improve property values by fostering redevelopment. The more destinations connected by a trail, the greater the economic impact. Expanding the trail system in the Lakes Region will bring an additional type of tourist, increase overnight stays, and require existing and new businesses to meet their needs.
The regional trail will be a significant enhancement to our economy and it's not just us trail advocates who are saying so. According to downtown Laconia business owner Myles Chase of MC Cycle and Sport, "We have a customer base of recreational riders who seek out and travel to these types of trails as a destination. With the new addition to Belmont and eventually beyond, there is no doubt that riders from afar would do the same for the WOW Trail."
So what's next? Well, thanks to the City of Laconia's significant investment, we are close to funding Phase 2 of the WOW Trail, which will meet Belmont's Winni Trail at the Belmont/Laconia line. But, we need your help with a final fundraising push to make this happen.
In the Lakes Region we've got something that many rail trail communities nationwide can't offer: access to a wide range of year-round recreation opportunities and a regional trail that will showcase three beautiful lakes. Coupled with the opportunity to link neighboring communities together in a unique way, it's a wonder that trail enthusiasm hasn't hit the region sooner. Thank you for your belief in our efforts to make the Lakes Region a more desirable place to live, work and play. We hope you will join us as we make the final push for expanding the regional trail this summer/fall.
I'm ready for 4.5 miles of continuous trail for walking, biking and running in 2014. Are you?