To The Daily Sun,
The Laconia Daily Sun reports that the City Council will press ahead with a plan to study, “among other things,” ripping up railroad tracks along the Concord-Lincoln corridor to extend the WOW Trail. The public has already voiced significant opposition to this idea. I am a supporter of the WOW Trail as it is but I have three main objections to how the city and the WOW Trail Committee are proceeding with this.
First, other projects backed by similar studies appear now to be dead in the water. Remember the Colonial Theater project? There is little reason to believe any study of the WOW Trail would yield a different result: Rosy scenarios and laudable optimism but no meaningful path forward. Besides, shouldn’t we spend our time, energy and resources studying things like what to do with the dilapidated and hazardous parking garage downtown?
Second, the state Department of Transportation has already told Mayor Engler it opposes the idea of ripping up the railroad. Why bother studying it? The DOT is the only conduit of federal funds that could be applied to extending the WOW Trail. Does the City Council really believe the DOT would fund something they’ve already expressly said they oppose?
The current WOW Trail has not created any tangible economic benefit. The largest restaurant went out of business and there is really nowhere to even spend money along the route. No one comes to Laconia for the WOW Trail. Any construction whether it be the removal of the tracks or adjacent construction will require the tourist train to be shut down for a period of time.
Third, and most important, momentum is building to develop a multi-sport complex on state-owned land where the old prison currently stands. As envisioned, this multi-sport complex would serve as a hub for the booming sports tourism industry. If the city is to study anything, it ought to research an alternate route for the WOW Trail adjacent to the site of this proposed sports complex. This is just common sense.