Scenic wetland in Meredith to become centerpiece of recreational trail

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent
July 31. 2018 9:08AM
The Hawkins Brook wetlands will be the centerpiece of a scenic recreational trail that will include an elevated boardwalk that is being planned for construction in Meredith. About $93,000 remains to be raised to make it become a reality. (COURTESY PHOTO)

MEREDITH — A group of volunteers whose goal was to promote a safe, walkable community for all to enjoy is nearing the finish line on its largest project to date.

The Meredith Village Pathway Committee, in partnership with the Conservation Commission, Inter-Lakes School District and the business community, developed a thoughtful plan for a scenic off-road recreational trail and is making the final fundraising push.

“We’re so close now we can almost reach out and touch it,” Pathways Committee Chairman Andrea Bourn said.

Through generous corporate and private donations, and the receipt of several grants, more than $400,000 of the needed $493,000 to build it and establish an endowment for maintenance been raised.

Designed by Timber & Stone LLC, the trail will feature an elevated boardwalk, three observation platforms, self-interpretive educational elements, and benches for relaxing. It will also be handicapped accessible.
Carol Gerken, left, a member of the Meredith Pathways Committee and Committee Chairman Andrea Bourn hold a map of the proposed Hawkins Brook Nature Trail. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

Once the fundraising goal has been reached and all pledges have been collected, bids for the project will go out and some portions of the trail will likely be built this fall, with construction of the boardwalk slated to start this spring.

“The uniqueness of this project is that it is located right in the heart of the village,” said Carol Gerken, who serves on the Pathways Committee.

The trail offers multiple benefits, Bourn said. It will increase the walkability of the community interconnecting downtown, Prescott Park, the Community Center and the Inter-Lakes school campus.

It will offer ecological education for the public as well as for teachers and students of all ages through outdoor classroom opportunities. Walking promotes public health, and the trail will also offer economic benefits by encouraging people to park their cars and use their feet to go to local stores, businesses and restaurants.

The trail will be universally accessible, Bourn stressed, allowing multi-generational use from seniors using a walker or a wheelchair to infants and toddlers being pushed in a stroller. Once completed the trail will be open from sunrise to sunset, and pets are welcomed. Carry in/carry out rules will apply and bicycles must be walked, not ridden.

Identified as a community asset in the town’s master plan 16 years ago, Gerken said, Hawkins Brook is an expansive and diverse wetland complex and the biggest tributary to the Lake Winnipesaukee watershed that feeds into the state’s largest lake.

The alignment of the trail takes advantage of unique ecological features in the wetland and then winds its way into an upland area where it transitions to a natural surface through the woods. Trailheads will be located between Meredith Village Savings Bank and the Seneca Ladd Building, and near the tennis courts next to the upper soccer field at Prescott Park.

Formerly known as the Hawkins Brook Trail it is fitting that it will become the Laverack Nature Trail at Hawkins Brook in honor of Sam Laverack, who retires as president and CEO of New Hampshire Mutual Bancorp.

Bourn, a retired physical education teacher and coach, recalled when she and former pathway chairman Liz Lapham made their initial foray to investigate the Hawkins Brook wetland.

Bumping their kayaks across the parking lot behind Meredith Village Savings Bank main branch on Route 3, in 2012, they encountered Laverack walking between buildings and he inquired what they were doing. When Lapham explained they wanted to paddle the wetland with an eye towards making it a community asset, Laverack voiced his support for the project and pointed to the window of his second-floor office and said he’d been enjoying the view for years. Laverack’s passion as an outdoor enthusiast has also been evidenced by his role as a board member for the NH Lakes Association and the Squam Lakes Conservation Society.

He served as honorary chairman of the Pathways Committee and, upon his retirement, Meredith Village Savings Bank donated $150,000 and Merrimack County Savings Bank gave $50,000 to help fund the community supported project for the benefit of local residents and visitors.

Additional funding came in the form of an $80,000 grant from the New Hampshire Trails Bureau and a $5,000 donation from the New Hampshire Charitable Fund. Several other grants have been submitted.

Gerkens said the committee was especially heartened by an anonymous donor who gave $16,500. Members of the Pathways Committee will be at Hermit Woods Winery on Main Street on Aug. 18 and over the Labor Day weekend to talk about the project, the benefits of donating and the availability of naming rights.

For more information contact Andrea Bourn at hawkinsbrooknt@gmail.com or Meredith Town Planner Angela LaBrecque at alabrecque@meredithnh.org


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