New scenic byway to celebrate mill towns along the Seacoast

Union Leader Correspondent
May 15. 2014 9:47PM

This map, created by the Strafford Regional Planning Commission, shows the new Mills Scenic Byway and how it could connect to other designated routes on the Seacoast – through the green hashed line. (Courtesy photo)

DURHAM — While some hope to capitalize on a new scenic byway that stretches 12 miles in four communities, others are wary of the impact of regional influence.

During a biannual meeting May 8, members of the New Hampshire Scenic and Cultural Byway Council unanimously approved the Mills Scenic Byway and included it into the state’s Scenic and Cultural Byway Program.

The Mills Scenic Byway travels through downtown Newmarket, Durham, and Madbury along Route 108. As Dover declined to participate in the process, the byway continues along Route 4, Roberts Road, Main Street and Front Street in Rollinsford.

The byway will help highlight the historical mills — which are being converted into housing, business and local centers — in the communities, according to Kyle Pimental, senior regional planner with Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC).

Pimental said some Dover residents expressed concerns that the designation would bring about a loss of local control.

“While there were some concerns from residents in terms of the scenic byway program being a part of the federal highway administration, the primary reason Dover did not participate was the City Council did not feel as though a state designation would benefit them,” Pimental said.

He said the four other communities — which don’t have the resources of the City of Dover — were very enthusiastic about the project.

Pimental said Dover officials “felt that their planning department and professional staff along with the volunteer work being done within the city was sufficient in marketing and promoting themselves as a community,” Pimental said.

“In the end, we were unable to effectively show how this type of recognition could help bolster tourism and the local economy (in Dover),” Pimental said.

“This is one way to provide a regional link to these mill towns,” Pimental said, adding the communities have mill buildings along the Lamprey, Oyster, Bellamy, Salmon Falls and Cocheco rivers.

“With all the redevelopment happening with these mills, we felt it was an opportunity to showcase our communities and some of the success they are having,” Pimental said.

While communities have had to submit a list of recreational activities along the route, Pimental said the towns must create an advisory team to develop a corridor management plan within the next two years.

“There isn’t a cost up to this point,” Pimental said, adding communities must purchase signs designating the byway — which cost about $200.

Pimental said the byway includes three miles of roads in Newmarket, five miles in Durham, about a mile — through the commercial district — in Madbury and about four miles in Rollinsford. He added Durham officials hope to extend the byway to include a loop around the downtown area to include the business district.

“That’s something we could look at in the future,” Pimental said.

Pimental said the SRPC hopes to connect the new byway to two others — the 21-mile Independence Scenic Byway, which travels along Route 107 in Seabrook to Route 108 in Exeter to Route 27 in North Hampton, and the 18.5-mile Coastal Scenic Byway, which stretches along Route 1A and 1B from Seabrook to Portsmouth and New Castle.

The proposed byway would begin at the Newmarket-Newfields town line, follow along Route 108 and connect with the Independence byway in Exeter, according to Pimental.

“It has not yet been established, but it is a long-term goal of SRPC to work with our counterparts in Rockingham (County) to see if we could bridge that gap,” Pimental said.

The New Hampshire Scenic and Cultural Byway Council also approved the Upper Lamprey River and Robert Frost/Old Stagecoach Byways, which joined 15 state and nationally designated scenic and cultural routes.

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