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Greg Keeler, director of marketing for Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch State Park, stands on the Flume Gorge boardwalk Wednesday afternoon. Winter-time damage to the boardwalk and a piece of ice stubbornly clinging to the gorge wall has delayed the opening of the entire boardwalk by about two weeks. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

Ice delaying opening of Flume walk

LINCOLN — A stubborn chunk of ice has delayed the opening of the full length of the 800-foot boardwalk through the Flume Gorge, the iconic granite formation at the base of Mount Liberty.

“We’re held captive here by the ice,” said Bill O’Connor, general manager of Franconia Notch State Park, in whose southern reaches the Flume Gorge is located. “You can look up the gorge, you can look down it, you just can’t walk through it at this time, but eventually you will.”

The boardwalk could be fully open sometime this weekend, or as late as next Wednesday, he said. Admission is being discounted until it is.

O’Connor said it will be the latest opening in his 30-year tenure. The boardwalk also suffered the most winter damaged he has seen in three decades.

He said the damage was caused by a sudden warm spell in April that was followed by torrential rain that cascaded off the ice-covered gorge walls and dropped blocks of ice into Flume Brook.

Between the repairs and the last piece of ice, “we’re a good two to three weeks behind.”

The surrounding nature trails and the Flume Gorge Visitor Center are open and operating seven days a week.

The boardwalk is built like a boat dock, in 8-foot sections. Each section is individually numbered, said O’Connor, adding that as a precaution against ice damage, a 300-foot length is removed at the end of each season and reinstalled before the start of the next.

This week’s warm temperatures helped dissolve some of the ice, as did some Yankee ingenuity. O’Connor said that for the past 20 years, park employees have placed a fire hose in Flume Brook above the Gorge and let gravity train a stream of water on the ice to melt it back from whence it came.

In 2013, nearly 140,000 people buying tickets in 2013 to walk the boardwalk while another 300,000 people came through the Flume Gorge Visitor Center.