DuBois — Ahern State Park, a jewel in the Lakes Region


Winnisquam Shoreline looking south

By Gordon DuBois

Walking along the shore of Winnisquam Lake in Ahern State Park, I reflected on my past work at Laconia State School. When I worked at the institution from 1977 to 1991, I would often jog to the lake on my lunch breaks and take a dip in the beautiful, clean water. As I meandered along, memories of this past rushed through my head: the wonderful people who lived there, the dedicated, committed staff who gave of themselves to make life better for people who were rejected by society. Now most of the buildings and grounds lie abandoned, being swallowed up by time. It's an ugly scar within the city of Laconia. The state has neglected the property for years. What the future holds is anybody's guess. But for the moment I live in the present, thankful that Ahern Park belongs to the people of New Hampshire and is located in Laconia.

A short distance from the abandoned grounds of Laconia State School lies Ahern State Park, an oasis of beautiful woods, sandy beaches, biking/hiking trails, and remarkable views of Lake Winnisquam. I return often to my former stomping grounds. I love to hike the numerous trails that wind along the hillside of the lake, take in the views and watch Reuben prance along the shore, sticking his nose in the crevices of rocks. When he gets the urge, he'll jump in the water to cool off and chase the sunbeams as they sparkle in the water. Ahern provides a place for solitude and reflection. I wonder why so few people visit this state park. Every time I'm here I see only a handful of visitors: people walking their dogs or sitting on the beaches. This is a gem in the city of Laconia. Nothing exists like this park in the entire Lakes Region. Yet it appears to me that it's similar to the abandoned institution on the hill above, desolate and forgotten.

The sign, "Ahern Park" is like other state park signs, but the feeling driving into the park is one of abandonment. I parked my truck at the upper gate and began my hike on the Alcatraz Trail. The trail system was built primarily for single track mountain biking. The trails take many twists and turns and I needed to study the trail map on the kiosk carefully to plan my hike. It was then I then noticed that the plaque stating "Ahern Park" was missing. It was once anchored to a large rock and had been removed. The plaque listed members of the Governor and Council from the 1920s. I believe William Ahern was a prominent member of New Hampshire's state government, but there was no recognition of him at the gate. The plaque was gone, perhaps stolen by a souvenir seeker.

The park is comprised of 128 acres and has 3,500 feet of shorefront on Winnisquam Lake. When the Laconia State School closed in 1991, the state was left with a decision: what to do with the land and buildings? What we know today is that Ahern Park was once part of the Laconia State School property. Fortunately in 1994 the state determined the parcel of 128 acres should be set aside and it was christened as Governors' State Park. In 1998 the park's name reverted to its original title as Ahern Park in memory of William Ahern.

As Reuben scampered ahead of me along the Alcatraz Trail, I was amazed at the immense white pine, beech and oak trees rising above the trail. Perhaps this forest never heard the sawyer's ax or the buzzing of a chain saw. John Muir came to mind, "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." Continuing on this trail, I came to an intersection and I recognized the old tote road that led to the grounds of the State School. I followed this road until I came to a clearing near the Spear Building. The building was named after Eva Spear, a prominent citizen in New Hampshire politics and social services. I stood overlooking the other large brick buildings that housed hundreds of people labeled disabled: Baker, Blood, Keyes, Felker and Powell in the distance. My mind suddenly brought me back to the 1980s, when I worked in the Blood Building. Memories shot through me, most good, others not so good. After pausing for several minutes to reflect on my work in the structures below, I resumed my journey. I wandered over to what remained of the upper farm: old storage sheds and chicken coops.

The State School property once belonged to William Crocket. He and his family settled here in 1770. They built their first home, a log cabin, close to what is now the corner of Old North Main and Parade roads. The log cabin was replaced later by a framed farm house, built by William's son Joshua. Over the years the Crocket family lost interest in farming and moved away. In 1901 the state was looking for land to build The New Hampshire Home for Feebleminded. They found the perfect spot, 250 beautiful acres of farmland. In 1901 the legislature allocated $60,000 to purchase the property, construct a residential hall, MacLane, and a school house. The institution opened its doors in 1903 and until 1991 it served to house thousands of children and adults with disabilities.

I left the farm buildings behind and made my way down the old tote road to the water front, arriving at Cottage Beach. The cottage is gone and the beach is growing in with weeds. The cottage was once used as a rest camp for employees, later for residents of the State School to enjoy a swim, picnic and a day away from the crowded conditions of institutional life. It was alleged that the restless ghosts of two nurses, murdered by a lunatic employee of the institution, haunted the cabin at night. (This story is true and a full account of the incident can be found in the records of the Laconia Democrat located at the Laconia Public Library). No wonder the cabin was taken down.

I continued my ramble along the shore road leading to the much larger Sandy Beach. I thought the beach would be crowded on this hot and humid day, but there was no one in sight. I continued my journey along the perimeter road, running along the shore and then headed into the woods on the Backbone Trail. This trail along, with the Lower James Trail, would eventually lead me back to my truck. This short jaunt of two hours was as enjoyable as ever. As John Muir stated, "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." I hope that others will take the opportunity to explore the trails of Ahern, whether it's on bike or on foot. It's a gem waiting to be discovered.

Gordon has hiked extensively in Northern New England and the Adirondacks of New York State. In 2011 he completed the Appalachian Trail (2,285 miles). He has also hiked the Long Trail in Vermont, The International AT in Quebec, Canada, Cohos Trail in northern New Hampshire and the John Muir Trail in California. Gordon has summited the New Hampshire Hundred Highest peaks, and the New England Hundred Highest in winter. He spends much of his time hiking locally and in the White Mountains with his dog Reuben, and especially enjoys hiking in the Lakes Region due to the proximity to his home in New Hampton. He is also a trail maintainer for the Belknap Range Trail Tenders and can often be found exploring the many hiking trails in the area. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Small beach on Ahern Point, just off the trail

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Froma Harrop - Do 'white guys' really want problems fixed?

Some harsh truths: Years ago, blue-collar America suffered mightily in the loss of manufacturing jobs. Everyone knows that. Many new, high-paying factory jobs are today going unfilled because workers aren't being trained for them. Some know that. Donald Trump has done about zero to offer these Americans a better tomorrow. Not nearly enough working white men seem to know that.

Or perhaps they'd rather see their anger applauded than their hard times ended. How else could anyone following Hillary Clinton's proposals for improving ordinary Americans' economic security prefer Trump? (We're making the dangerous assumption that much of the general electorate has even bothered looking at the real-world fixes she's prescribing.)

Let's start with the struggling white folk of the Appalachian coal country. Polls indicate that the white men there especially prefer Trump. Because? Because? You tell me why. Politicos explain that they are an ornery population — proud, courageous and patriotic — but also susceptible to the sort of racist appeals that Trump uses to get them on the cheap.

Trump's vow to "bring back coal" would be one of his easiest promises to break. The problem for coal isn't just that it's dirty energy. It's that natural gas is cheaper. Trashing every environmental law on the books would not change the fact of free market life that consumers are going to buy the less expensive product.

Clinton, by contrast, has a plan to create a new economy for Appalachia. She would spend $30 billion upgrading the region's roads and sewer lines, installing broadband and improving other communications. That's good employment for local workers. Money would go toward education to prepare people for the high-paying jobs that don't require a college degree. And she'd offer tax incentives for the companies that need such skills to move there. Her running mate, Tim Kaine of Virginia, has close family ties to Appalachia. He would, in all likelihood, be heading the project.

Trump's plan is to favor himself and other 1 percenters with steep tax cuts that would drain the treasury of money needed to make a Clinton-type plan a reality. (That might not matter much because he doesn't have such a plan, or any plan.) The tax cuts would also put pressure on social programs — food stamps, Medicaid — that keep struggling workers above water.

Contrary to Trump's hollering that American manufacturing is dead, U.S. factories are making more stuff than ever. They're just doing it with robots and computers and fewer people than before.

The so-called Rust Belt state of Indiana is doing rather well in this new manufacturing economy. This is the state with the highest proportion of factory jobs, yet its unemployment is now only 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, personal income rose nearly 4 percent last year.

Most of the people who work in these modern plants don't need a college education. They just need extra training to fix and operate the machines.

Some years back, European companies building ultramodern factories in South Carolina, Tennessee and elsewhere in the South complained that they couldn't find people with the proper skills. Some set up their own apprenticeship programs to provide employees the education they need — the kind of vocational training that has nurtured Germany's famously prosperous blue-collar workforce.

It's good that some companies take it upon themselves to offer even low levels of training. But it's our educational system's duty to impart these basic skills before the workers submit their job applications. Neither Trump's heart nor his brain is into setting up such a nuts-and-bolts program.

Blue-collar Americans have every right to vote their emotions over their economic self-interest. But let's just not pretend they're doing otherwise.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Howard — The Serenity of August

By Elizabeth Howard

April and August, in addition to sharing an "A," are the two months of the year without major holidays. There are no Hallmark cards designed for events during August. Easter does occasionally fall during April, but not always and April can be fickle, catching us off guard with a dusting of snow or a morning chill. August is the most carefree month. It is ours to enjoy. We bask in the warm gentle breezes, long, light-filled days and the sense that the world has, if just for a few hours, slowed down.

Birthdays in our family are in April and August, so we have reasons to celebrate during these months. Saturday evening we celebrated two family birthdays with a barbecue that ended with a decadent chocolate cake served with our favorite pistachio ice cream. It was already dark as we were finishing our dinner but the lights strung around the umbrella and twinkling over the table offered just enough light so we could finish dessert before pulling on sweaters and retreating to the living room.

I had driven to New Hampshire on Saturday across the state of Vermont via Route 9, East. Along the way I noticed canoes and kayaks in the rivers and ponds. Wistfully I watched as these small, quiet vessels seemed to glide through the water. My thoughts turned to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind and the Willows. "The willow-wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was past ten o'clock at night, the sky sill clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night. ..." My mother, at 95, still enjoys going out in the canoe and my brothers took her canoeing on Saltmarsh Pond Saturday afternoon. They enjoyed lunch sitting on the mossy banks of the pond.

Robert McFarlane, a British writer, is the author of a book that has recently been published in the United States entitled: Landmarks. It is difficult to describe the book, as it is part dictionary, a bibliography of books about nature and landscape and stories of his experiences researching the words. Essentially the book gathers "thousands of words from dozens of languages and dialects for specific aspects of landscape, nature and weather."

What McFarlane is helping the reader, and writers, with is how to write and describe nature. We reach the summit of a mountain, he reminds us, and say, "wow." Not particularly descriptive but the only word that comes to mind.

When I have been canoeing on bogs and ponds in New Hampshire, as dawn is breaking or just at sunset, I have struggled with writing about the experience. The visual experience remains within our mind's eye, it is difficult to capture in words on the page.

We pulled on sweaters Saturday evening, a reminder that August is coming to an end. And even though canoeing and kayaking is possible until the water is impossibly cold it isn't quite the same. Living in a region of lakes we are fortunate to have the summer months to go bumbelling (verb, Shetlandic) around in the water and relaxing on the soft banks along the edge. There is a certain serenity in August.

Elizabeth Howard's career intersects journalism, marketing and communications. Ned O'Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited, was published in May, 2016. She is the author of A Day with Bonefish Joe, a children's book, published by David R. Godine. She lives in New York City and has a home in Laconia. You can send her a note at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Patrick Buchanan - Their war, not ours

The debacle that is U.S. Syria policy is today on naked display.

NATO ally Turkey and U.S.-backed Arab rebels this weekend attacked our most effective allies against ISIS, the Syrian Kurds. Earlier in August, U.S. planes threatened to shoot down Syrian planes over Hasakeh, and our Iraq-Syria war commander, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, issued a warning to Syria and Russia against any further air strikes around the city.

Who authorized Gen. Townsend to threaten to shoot down Syrian or Russian planes — in Syria?

When did Congress authorize an American war in Syria? Is the Constitution now inoperative?

That we are sinking into a civil war where we sometimes seem to be fighting both sides is a tribute to the fecklessness of the Barack Obama-John Kerry foreign policy and the abdication of a Congress that refuses to either name our real enemy or authorize our deepening involvement. Our Congress appears again to have abdicated its war powers.

Consider the forces that have turned Syria into a charnel house with 400,000 dead and millions injured, maimed and uprooted.

On the one side there is the regime of Bashar Assad and its allies — Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. Damascus buys its weapons from Moscow and has granted Russia its sole naval base in the Mediterranean. And Vladimir Putin protects his interests and stands by his friends.

To Iran, the Alawite regime of Assad is a strategic link in the Shia crescent that runs from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to South Beirut and Lebanon's border with Israel.

If Syria falls to Sunni rebels, Islamist or democratic, that would mean a strategic loss for Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, which is why all have invested so much time, blood and treasure in this war.

If they are going to lose Syria, Assad, Iran, Hezbollah and the Russians are probably going to go down fighting. And should we decide to fight a war to take them down, we would find ourselves with such de facto allies as ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida.

Have the hawks who want us to target Assad considered this?

The American people would never sustain such a war in the company of such allies, with its risks of escalation, to remove Assad, who, whatever we think of him, never terrorized Americans or threatened U.S. vital interests.

Years ago, Assad dismissed Obama's demand that he surrender power, then defied Obama's "red line" against the use of chemical weapons. He is not going to depart because some U.S. president tells him he must go.

As for the Syrian Kurds, the YPG, they have sealed much of the border with Turkey and fought their way ever closer to Raqqa, the capital of the ISIS caliphate. But what has elated the Americans has alarmed the Turks. For the YPG not only drove ISIS out of the border towns all the way to the Euphrates; this summer, with U.S. backing, they crossed the river and seized Manbij.

Turkey's fear is that the Syrian Kurds will link their cantons east of the Euphrates with their canton west of the river and create a statelet that could give Turkey's Kurds a privileged sanctuary from which to pursue their 30-year struggle for independence.

If, when the war ends in Syria, the YPG is occupying all the borderlands, Ankara faces a long-term existential threat of dismemberment. After recent terrorist attacks on his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recognizes that ISIS is a monster with which he cannot live. Thus, this weekend, he sent tanks and Arab troops to drive ISIS out of the Syrian border town of Jarablus.

Now Turkish troops and their Arab allies are moving further south into Syria to expel the Kurds from Manbij. Joe Biden, visiting Turkey, told the Kurds to get out of Manbij and back across the river.

How does the U.S. protect its interests while avoiding a deeper involvement in this war?

First, recognize that ISIS and the al-Nusra Front are our primary enemies in Syria, not Assad or Russia. Geostrategists may be appalled, but the Donald may have gotten it right. If the Russians are willing to fight to crush ISIS, to save Assad, be our guest.

Second, oppose any removal of Assad unless and until we are certain he will not be replaced by an Islamist regime.

Third, we should assure the Turks we will keep the Kurds east of the Euphrates and not support any Kurdish nation-state that involves any secession from Turkey.

America's best and wisest course is to stop this slaughter that is killing a thousand Syrians a week, use our forces in concert with any and all allies to annihilate the Nusra Front and ISIS, keep the Kurds and Turks apart, effect a truce if we can, and then get out. It's not our war.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Jim Hightower - Why can't U.S. economy promote equality & shared prosperity?

Instead of griping about the greedheads of Wall Street and the rip-off financial system they've hung around our necks — why don't we "Take On Wall Street?"

You don't have to be in "Who's Who" to know what's what. For example, if tiny groups of Wall Street bankers, billionaires and their political puppets are allowed to write the rules that govern our economy and elections, guess what? Only bankers, billionaires and puppets will profit from those rules.

That's exactly why our Land of Opportunity has become today's Land of Inequality. Corporate elites have bought their way into the policy-making backrooms of Washington, where they've rigged the rules to let them feast freely on our jobs, devour our country's wealth and impoverish the middle class.

"Take On Wall Street" is both the name and the feisty attitude of a nationwide campaign that a coalition of grassroots groups has launched to do just that: Take on Wall Street. The coalition, spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, points out that there is nothing natural or sacred about today's money-grabbing financial complex. Far from sacrosanct, the system of finance that now rules over us has been designed by and for Wall Street speculators, money managers, and big bank flim flammers. So — big surprise — rather than serving our common good, the system is corrupt, routinely serving their uncommon greed at everyone else's expense.

There's good news, however, for a growing grassroots coalition of churches, unions, civil rights groups, citizen activists and many others are organizing and mobilizing us to crash through those closed doors, write our own rules and reverse America's plunge into plutocracy. The "Take On" campaign has the guts and gumption to say enough! Instead of continuing to accept Wall Street's plutocratic perversion of our democracy, We The People can rewrite their rules and reorder their structures so the system serves us.

For starters, the campaign has laid out a five-point people's reform agenda and are now taking it to the countryside to rally the voices, anger, and grassroots power of workers, consumers, communities of color, Main Street, the poor, people of faith ... and just plain folks. The coalition is holding information and training sessions to spread the word, forge local coalitions, and learn how we can get right in the face of power to create a fair finance system that works for all. The coalition's structural reforms include:

— Getting the corrupting cash of corporations and the superrich out of our politics by repealing Citizens United and providing a public system for financing America's elections.

— Stopping "too big to fail" banks from subsidizing their high-risk speculative gambling with the deposits of us ordinary customers — make them choose to be a consumer bank or a casino, but not both.

— Institute a tiny "Robin Hood Tax" on Wall Street speculators to discourage their computerized gaming of the system, while also generating hundreds of billions of tax dollars to invest in America's real economy.

— Restore low-cost, convenient "postal banking" in our Post Offices to serve millions of Americans who're now at the mercy of predatory payday lenders and check-cashing chains.

There's an old truism about negotiating that says: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." The "Take On Wall Street" campaign intends to put you and me — the People — at the table for a change.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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