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Howard — Putting the city in nature

By Elizabeth Howard

The Museum of the City of New York recently opened an exhibition entitled: "New York at its Core, 400 Years of History." While there are the traditional vitrines with ephemera and various archives, much of the exhibition is displayed using interactive digital technology. Children can design a park or figure out how to stop flooding by creating barriers against coastal waters. Maps cover walls and then light up to show where and when various immigrant groups settled. It's a fascinating exhibition and studying all of the various galleries would mean several trips to the Museum, not just one Saturday afternoon.

At one point walking through the exhibition, I began to think about Laconia. I realized I have much to research. What about the Abenaki Indian settlement that is now The Weirs? Where was the fort built in Laconia in 1746? Like the history of many New Hampshire municipalities, the history of Laconia is closely tied to the geography of the place.

Then I began to again reimagine Laconia using the questions posed in The Future of the City section of the City Museum of NY Exhibition. There are five questions: 1) How will we make a living? 2) Live together? 3) House a growing population? 4) Live with nature? 5) Get around?

For the last decade and until her death in November I worked with Diana Balmori.
Diana was recognized as a visionary urban planner and landscape architect who blurred the line between architecture and landscape. It was Diana who designed one of the first green roofs in New York City and, using this concept, created the master plan for a new government city in Sejong, Korea that connects eleven government ministries buildings with a linear park across the rooftops. The rooftop park curves like a serpent over two miles through what had been rice patties. It is a stunning accomplishment.

A Landscape Manifesto (Yale University Press, 2011), Diana's seminal work on her philosophy, includes 25 manifesto points designed to help think about incorporating nature and landscape into new urban settings.

"Two tasks emerge from this redefinition: landscape must create a new kind of city, and it must broker a new type of relationship between humans and the rest of nature. For the first, we need to put the city into nature. For the second, we must undo the harmful model of industrialization."

Manifesto Point 2: Nature is the flow of change within which humans exist. Evolution is its history. Ecology is our understanding of its present phase.

How can we put Laconia in nature? What about a community garden near the center of downtown? A place where everyone can garden and then local restaurants can purchase and serve some of the food.

Manifesto Point 17: We can heighten the desire for new interactions between human and nature where it is least expected in derelict spaces.

Imagine a building with a rooftop garden that overlooks downtown, creating a place where one has a view across the landscape that encompasses spires of the local churches, the mountains and the lakes.

It is helpful to ask the question: "What could the downtown center become?" If small retail stores, consignment shops and even eateries struggle, it might be useful to think about how the center could be redesigned so it is used not only by people in the community but by others in the region, or in the state.

A few of my fantasies? A bookstore, with new and used books. One that is perhaps connected to the Laconia Public Library and relies on donated books. Several nights a week there could be an author's forum or a talk by someone in the community.

A yarn shop where people can sit and knit all day. Annie's, a yarn store in Manhattan just a few blocks from my apartment, has a large round table where men and women sit and knit. It is a way to find friendship and if you drop a few stitches or begin a new pattern there is something there to help.

A soup kitchen. A place where local people would be hired to make four soups a day. These would be sold to support the people working in the kitchen. Who wouldn't want to stop and pick up a hot beef stew when it's dark and cold at the end of the day? Or a cold cucumber soup to enjoy with grilled hamburgers during the summer months.

A tailor shop where a few people who love design and fashion could re-imagine your old clothes. The jacket from a man's suit made into a woman's coat. The pants from a pinstriped suit turned into a smart short skirt for young women. A dress that becomes a skirt and takes on another life.

None of these ideas are particularly profitable. They might cover a low rent and need to be supported by volunteer help. What this might do is create more of a community downtown that engages and involves people. Downtown is a nice walk from many neighborhoods so getting there is a healthy alternative to driving.

In our digital world it is lovely to think about living together in a community that is inclusive, peaceful and considers creative and alternative solutions to overcome obstacles we have created and a community where the lines between nature and living are blurred.

My Valentine is to you – my friends in New Hampshire who love the lakes and mountains, as I do.

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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Alan Vervaeke - Hillary failed to inspire the 47% who didn't vote

I'll be honest and people won't like it. At all. I like the Electoral College and why we have it. It worked exactly the way it is supposed to this election cycle. I support it going forward because what it does is protect rural America from being made irrelevant by urban America. The big cities go blue and many small- to medium-sized towns go red. Is it possible the Russians pulled dirty tricks that turned public opinion against Hillary and the Democrats? Yes. In fact, it's highly likely. Did it possibly cost the Democrats the election? It's highly possible and even probable. But do I blame the Russians for Donald Trump?

No. I don't. I blame Hillary and the Democratic National Committee.

You ask why? Eight years ago, a lot of people who were convinced that another Clinton White House was the answer to America's problems walked away with a bloody nose and a bruised ego when she lost to Barack Obama. The historical significance of the first elected African-American president overshadowed their need for the first elected woman president. And over the next eight years they made their plans and they executed them to ensure her victory. But they overlooked two things: Bernie Sanders and Hillary's baggage.

And let's face it, she has plenty of baggage after 30-plus years in the public eye. All of the things from the Clinton White House were now hers to bear. Bill's women. TravelGate. Universal health care. Fair or mostly unfair, she inherited it all when she chose the White House. Throw in her term as secretary of state and policy that was not necessarily hers, issues like Benghazi (which really was just so much crap), and the e-mails (really just even more crap) and now you have a candidate that should have been capable of wiping the floor with Bernie Sanders and instead was barely keeping her head above water.

But the DNC is where it really went off the rails. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz conspired to hand the Democratic nomination to Hillary to ensure that history got made. And that's all it was — they wanted to make history. Period. There was a sense that she'd been anointed somehow. I think Hillary wanted the presidency to prove something.

Capable? Yes indeed. The best choice at the time? Probably not. After four years of being flagellated in the media every day by House Republicans, any sane person would have said, "Let's sit this one out." Bernie would have beaten Donald Trump going away, but as an independent running as a Democrat he didn't have the party — or the committee — behind him and so they ensured that Hillary won.

She had the money. She had big donors. She had Bill. And then in her arrogance she hired Ms. Wasserman-Shultz after she was essentially fired by the DNC, and she lost much of the Bernie vote. She didn't have the country won over.

Yes, she won the popular vote by almost 3 million. But she lost in small-town America and she lost in manufacturing America. And she failed to enliven, excite, or empower 47 percent of the registered voters in the United States who didn't bother to vote. That is why she lost.

And at the same time, that is also why Donald Trump did not really win the election. Yes, he got the magical 270 electoral votes. But he also failed to capture 47 percent of voters in the USA.

You see, neither one of them spoke to the average Middle-America voter. Mr. Trump spoke to their fears and their anger. He spoke about economics and jobs to people who wanted to believe him and just weren't smart enough to see that it was a lot of lies coupled with nonsensical rhetoric and a media who just didn't give a damn. He did not connect with the average American voter who understood that Reaganomics never worked, and that a wall won't either.

And Hillary? She never visited rural America to connect to them and tell them why they'd be irrevocably damaged by an end to Obamacare, or by more supply-side economics, or by an onslaught to the very basis for what America is — an open country meant to be the place where dreams come true for anyone willing to work hard enough. That was where Bernie Sanders excelled. He could connect. He could excite. I watched. I wanted to be excited about Hillary, but I only went for her when all of my other choices fell by the wayside. She was emotional pablum.

And what do we have now? We have the least popular person ever sworn in as president. We have a legislative branch that's supposed to be "Of the People, By the People, For the People" but instead is one of the most ruthless and corrupt in memory. We have tens of millions of people afraid for what those two branches of government are going to do in the next six months. We have a world that is anxious to see what this country does because it impacts all of them in more ways than most folks understand. And we have a country that is more divided right now than at any single time since the Civil War.

Finally, I don't assume that someone else is simply going to take care of my country. As a voter, I have a responsibility for how my country is doing, where it's headed, and who's running it. I have a right to complain about it, too. Reasonably. Fairly. Appropriately. And so I say to that 47 percent of registered voters who didn't vote on Nov. 9, if you have a complaint or concern to be voiced, go to the bathroom, take a long look into the mirror, and then shut your pie hole forever, because you've lost any rights to say anything on the day you failed to vote. You failed your country.

(Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.)

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LHS swim team finishes regular season – Phelps to represent Sachems at state meet

Laconia High school swim team had their final meet of the season on Tuesday in Goffstown, competing against seven area schools. Senior Tim Maczko finished his season with an eighth place finish in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 29.09,  then grabbed the ninth slot in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 1:09.24. Patrick Deegan swam to 14th place in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 1:20.79, giving him his best time of the season. Abigail Bailey finished her season taking 18th in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 1:49.58, then  grabbed 7th place in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 2:04.56. Senior Kaitlyn Mowery swam to a 16th place in the 100-yard freestyle putting up a time of 1:20.28, then continued to impress with a 11th place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:44.22.  Freshman Eric Phelps finishes his season with a win in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:02.52, giving him a personal best time for the season. He then swam to 4th place in the 100-yard butterfly with another personal best time of 1:05.01. Phelps has qualified for the high school state meet for division II in all eight events. He will attend the NHIAA division II high school swim meet  at UNH on Feb. 11.


LHS Swim Team 

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Lakes Region Profiles — Low real estate inventory raises buyer concern

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By Frank Roche,

President, Roche Realty Group, Inc.

We are getting close to the onset of our spring selling season for the home market here in the Lakes Region. Talking with many of the other members of the Lakes Region Board of Realtors, everyone seems to be raising the same comments – there is a definite lack of inventory at certain price points. From what I have read nationally, we seem to be following within the same parallel. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of for-sale listings fell again in December to the lowest level since 1999. The Association indicated that there were just 1.65 million homes for sale at the end of December, which at the current sales pace would take only about 3.5 months to exhaust. I was amazed when I heard that statistic because just a short time ago, in 2012 and 2013, we had roughly an 11 to 14 month supply of inventory available for sale up here in the Lakes Region. I have always been taught that the normal market should reflect an inventory level of approximately six months.
After seeing the national statistics come out, I thought I would pull up our Lakes Region averages to see how we compare with the numbers posted nationally. I pulled the following 12 towns: Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, Moultonborough, Center Harbor, Alton, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro, Sanbornton, Belmont, Holderness and Gilmanton. I found only 606 active listings, with an average list price of $725,311 and a median list price of $229,700. (Keep in mind the average list price is skewed because of the many high-end waterfront home in our region.)
I then went back and pulled all of the sales that occurred from Feb.1, 2016 to Feb. 1, 2017. There were 1,652 sales or an average of 137 sales per month, during that time frame, the average selling price was $358,388 with the median selling price at $232,075. With only 606 active listings currently available, at last year's sales pace, we currently have a 4.4 month supply of inventory here in the Lakes Region, this would pertain to residential sales, water access, condo and waterfront homes.
Bottom line, it looks like we are not too far off of the national average of a 3.5 month supply of inventory, compared to the 4.4 month supply in our beautiful Lakes Region.
To give you an idea of what is out there available for sale, as of this weekend, here are some chilling results:
Newfound Lake: 0 active waterfront listings
Lake Opechee: 0 active waterfront listings
Lake Kanasatka: 0 active waterfront listings
Lake Waukewan: one active waterfront listing
Lake Winnisquam: two active waterfront listings
Lake Wentworth: two active waterfront listings
Squam Lake: eight active waterfront listings
Lake Winnipesaukee: 102 active waterfront listings
Looking at some of the condominium communities; Samoset Condominiums has no active listings, Misty Harbor has no active listings, Marina Bay has no active listings, Village at Winnipesaukee has one active listing, Broadview has one active listing, Four Seasons has one active listing, Patrician Shores Association has no active listings, Sands of Brookhurst has one active listing.
So, you can see from above what we are up against as real estate agents and potential home buyers. With the busy spring market ahead, all of the local realtors I have talked to have indicated buyer demand is strong so far in 2017. The only thing we are faced with however is a lack of inventory at certain price points meeting certain criteria. There is obviously strong competition for homes priced under $200,000 and there is certainly pent up demand for fine properties in the many water access communities scattered throughout the Lakes Region on our numerous lakes.
I would argue that the housing market has recovered considerably from the boom to bust cycle that began 12 years. The one good thing we can look toward is that, historically, many homes start coming on the market in early spring in anticipation of the summer market. For those of you out there that are considering selling, scaling down, relocating or upgrading to a new home – now would be there perfect time to consider listing your property. You want to be out there when there is less competition with strong demand and lack of product choices. You never know what is around the corner looking ahead a couple years. My advice...speak with your favorite Lakes Region real estate agent and get the process started!
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Frank Roche is the president of Roche Realty Group, Inc in Meredith and Laconia, NH. Roche Realty can be reached at 603-279-7046.

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Mt. Whittier - A blast from the past


Sign at the base of the mountain

By Gordon DuBois

Many travelers driving on Route 16 in Ossipee must wonder about the large stanchions sitting near the junction with Route 25, in the McDonald's parking lot. They probably ask themselves, "What are those towers used for?" Those towers are recollections of the past, when small ski areas dotted the New Hampshire landscape. The towering relics of a bygone era carried skiers to the summit house of the Mt. Whittier Ski Area. (Mt. Whittier is actually a misnomer as the ski area sits on the side of Grant Peak and Mt. Whittier lies further to the west). It was common to find ski hills in most every community, sometimes several. In New Hampton, where I live, there was the New Hampton School ski area on Burleigh Mountain and Mail Box Hill on Old Bristol Road. Remnants of these areas can still be seen, including the tow houses that held the car engines which ran the lift. I remember an older resident of New Hampton who used to ski Mailbox Hill telling the story of her scarf getting wrapped around the tow rope and being dragged up the hill, almost into the engine gears, before the tow was stopped.

From Colebrook Tow in Colebrook to Morris Hill in Hampstead, family and locally owned ski areas were the places where children learned to ski and families spent weekends enjoying winter fun together, without having to spend a lot of money. There were over 200 small and medium size ski areas that operated throughout the state. Locally, the Arlberg Inn ran a small operation in the 1950s. The Gilford Outing Club operated a rope tow on Route 11A near Gunstock from 1950 to 1992. In the 1930s, Fred Weeks used his dairy farm on Weeks Road in Gilford to bring skiers from Boston and ski the west side of Mt Rowe. A few small ski areas still remain such as Mt. Eustis in Littleton and the Red Hill Family Ski Area in Center Sandwich, but these are rare.

In the 1970s and early '80s I used to drive by the Mt. Whittier Ski Area on my way to Maine. The parking lot on Route 16 was filled with cars and the tram was busy shuffling would-be skiers up the mountain to the summit. Since Mt. Whittier closed in 1985 the area has fallen into decay. Trails have become almost completely overgrown. Lifts have degraded to the point that they could never operate again. Despite all this, the gondola cable still remains, along with the towers, including one in a McDonald's parking lot. The owners tried to resurrect the area in the form of an amusement park, but could never seem to make a go of it. The towers are a reminder of times long past.

Having wanted to explore the abandoned Mt. Whittier Mountain Ski Area for many years, I decided to head up to Ossipee and see what I could find of the once thriving ski resort. I was accompanied by several friends, Steve, Beth, Ken and Karen who were also intrigued by the idea of revisiting the defunct resort. We were not to be disappointed. We arrived at the parking lot off Route 25 near the junction of Route 16 and followed Newman Drew Road. Just past the Bear Camp Campgrounds, we found the gondola towers climbing up the side of the mountain. We pulled off, put on our winter hiking packs and snow shoes and headed up the lift line. The Mueller four-person gondola was installed around 1963 and was one of the first of its kind to be built in this country. It was unique because it started at the parking lot on Route 16 and picked up skiers at a mid-station. The area was started in 1949, and at its height operated rope tows, several T-bars, and the gondola lift on 80 acres of terrain.

After a short time climbing the lift line, we spotted the gondola base station, now decrepit and falling into disrepair. However, the cables, gears, pulleys and large geared wheels were still in place, as well as the loading platform. We continued climbing the steep incline following the still existent cable and towers to a sharp ice covered rock ledge. Here we made our way into the woods to bushwhack up the side of the mountain. After returning to the lift line, we eyed the summit gondola station along with the snack bar perched at the summit. Once we reached the top of the mountain we were stunned by the amazing views: the Sandwich Range, Mt. Kearsarge, Ossipee Lake and the hills of Maine. I could understand why the gondola ran year-round, carrying summer tourist and winter skiers to the summit restaurant to experience the fantastic views. We found relics laying around the station: signs, cables, lift machinery and even a rusted tank truck with an unknown purpose. The ski trails from the summit were obscured by trees that had grown back since the area was closed. The forest was in the process of reclaiming what had been taken away over 60 years ago. Nature always has a way of filling a void.

After our explorations on the summit, we began a slow and tedious climb down the mountain, trying to find the once wide open, steep slopes. The slopes, which cascaded down the mountain, are now covered with trees and bushes. We cautiously wove around stands of trees, shrubs and rock ledges trying to find even a semblance of a ski trail. We stumbled into an abandoned T-bar lift station, with cables and T-bars still in place. The steep terrain made footing tricky. As we lumbered our way along down the mountain, I pondered on the closing of Mt. Whittier. It was in an ideal location, right off a busy highway, great views from the summit and one of the first gondolas in the country. Why did it close? Several reasons: the steep and rocky terrain was not friendly to the beginner skier or a family, snow-making equipment was never installed, and the lift equipment was not upgraded or modified. Most importantly, the ski industry changed dramatically in the 1980s. The larger, more attractive ski resorts were only an hour's drive further north. People wanted "more bang for their buck."

When we reached the base of the mountain we discovered the T-bar tow house along with a map of the ski area and a few other relics. I looked up the mountain, toward the summit, and envisioned hordes of skiers racing down the slopes, the base lodge bustling with activity, skiers waiting in line to catch the next T-bar to pull them up the mountain, cars jammed into the parking lot, screams of children as they took their first spill on the beginner's hill. As I stood on the abandoned grounds of Mt Whittier, the utter silence was mesmerizing. The stillness was briefly interrupted by a gentle breeze whistling through the empty, dilapidated buildings. Standing in this deserted lot, I only saw the wreckage of a ski area that at one time thrived. Mt. Whittier is among the many corpses of ski areas that used to flourish throughout New England. Now most of them are obscured by the forest that have overtaken their slopes and decomposed buildings.

We had a wonderful time exploring the ski area, looking at the past through the lens of the ruins we found on Grant Peak. In some ways it was a nostalgic hike, remembering the past when I skied the slopes of Sunday River, spending only $6 for a lift ticket and riding the T-bar. Now Sunday River is a sprawling, mega ski resort. Maybe you would like to explore Mt. Whittier or a lost ski area close to home. If you do, check out the web site: The New England Lost Ski Area Project. Perhaps you'll have a chance to relive a blast from your past.


Gordon can be found exploring the many hiking trails in the area with his dog Reuben and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Gordon and Reuben in front of truck relic on summit

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