LACONIA — The multi-use recreational WOW Trail which runs from the Laconia-Belmont line all the way to Lakeport is the kind local resource that deserves public support, including federal funding, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas said as he got a firsthand look at the trail Tuesday.
Pappas walked the 2-mile stretch of the trail between Lakeport Square and Veterans Square in downtown Laconia, along with Allan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail Committee; Jennifer Beetle, a committee member; and Amy Lovisek, the director of Laconia’s Parks and Facilities Department which helps maintain the trail.
The congressman said he is hopeful that money for projects like the WOW Trail will be included in President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and boost the economy.
As Pappas walked along the trail with its views of Lake Opechee he asked Allan Beetle questions about the development of the trail, which opened 11 years ago. Completion of the first phase was built largely with money from the federal economic stimulus package following the 2008 recession.
He said he hoped the infrastructure bill would include up to $500 million a year nationwide to be used on pedestrian infrastructure and similar projects.
The WOW Trail Committee has long promoted the non-motorized pathway as a way to spur economic development in the city.
“We’ve packed up the lake with boats, let’s get people out walking and biking,” Beetle said at the end of Pappas’s tour in front of the Laconia Railroad Station downtown.
Beetle said the committee is in a “maintenance and enhancement mode.”
Efforts to extend the trail northward from Lakeport to Weirs Beach are at a standstill. Beetle said the committee is waiting for the results of the mayor’s blue-ribbon commission which is studying the possible routing for that leg of the trail.
In the meantime, Beetle said the committee is working to develop plans for a 5½ mile trail to run along Pleasant Street, go though Ahern State Park on Lake Winnisquam, and then follow Elm Street to Lakeport Square where it would connect with the WOW Trail.
Sidewalk expansion along Elm Street, from the Elm Street School to Union Avenue, is expected to be done this year in conjunction with the Elm Street sewer project.