MEREDITH — From his vantage point as CEO of the local bank, Sam Laverack witnessed a town remake itself. He worked at Meredith Village Savings Bank for more than four decades, he said.
“In that time, I got to see Meredith make a transition from a mill town to a recreation town,” Laverack said, speaking Sunday during a dedication ceremony for the Laverack Nature Trail at Hawkins Brook. The trail, which opened earlier this summer, was named for him because of a significant donation that MVSB made to the fundraising campaign that paid for the trail’s construction.
The Laverack Nature Trail starts at the back of the parking lot at Meredith Village Savings Bank and winds through a wetland to the athletic fields at Prescott Park, about a half-mile away. The trail, according to its namesake, is another amenity that will help the town to move forward in its new identity.
“The more of these recreational opportunities we offer, the more tourists and success we will attract,” Laverack said.
The new attraction was a project of the Meredith Pathways Committee, which began discussion of the possibility of a nature trail along Hawkins Brook nine years ago. Andrea Bourn, chair of the committee, recounted that the committee funded a trail design in 2015, then set out to raise the $600,000 needed to pay for the trail, 1,450 feet of which is on black locust boardwalk passing over the wetlands.
That campaign succeeded, thanks in no small part to a gift in 2018 from MVSB in honor of their retiring chief executive.
Alison Whynot, who spoke at the dedication on behalf of the bank, said the board of directors were unanimous in their decision to make the gift a tribute to Laverack’s leadership and his love for the natural world.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this,” Whynot said.
Ray Moritz, a member of the town’s Board of Selectmen, praised the volunteer committee, and thanked the many individuals and businesses who donated.
“Taxpayers only had to shoulder 12% of the cost, while adding this tremendous benefit to the town,” Moritz said.
The trail, which is fully accessible, was designed and built by Timber and Stone, LLC, a Vermont-based company owned by Josh Ryan. Ryan said there were many notable things about the project: the more than 30,000 decking screws that were used, that he slept in a tent on the boardwalk to be able to continue working during the pandemic lockdown, and the time that he and one of his crew fell into the frigid water – but managed to keep $10,000 of steel from tumbling in as well.
But the thing that impressed him beyond all else was the way that the community welcomed the project, Ryan said. No matter the weather, he said, people went out of their way to lend an encouraging word.
“Literally every day, we had people come to cheer us on,” Ryan said.
That enthusiasm was well-warranted because, as Laverack said, “The end product is phenomenal. And it is fun to see how many people are enjoying it every day.”