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Raymond Pursues Grants to Fund Downtown Park on River
By Penny Williams     6-10-15

A proposal for a pocket park and kayak and canoe launch on the Lamprey River at 15 Old Manchester Road in downtown Raymond has been slowly making its way through the development and funding process.

The park would provide a place where people could go to enjoy the river and to launch kayaks and canoes into the Lamprey. Supporters say it will bring increased foot traffic to the downtown and thus boost the local economy. And preparing the land would result in limiting the flooding that often occurs there, a benefit to both the river and the town.

The property, owned by the Thibault Family Irrevocable Trust, has been appraised but the appraisal amount has not been publicly released yet. It holds two buildings, an old garage and a manufactured dwelling occupied by Ron Soini. The buildings would be torn down and removed if the park were developed.

The town assessment for the property is listed at $102,500. Of that sum, the land is assessed at $71,400, and the improvements at $31,100.

Town officials say there is some toxic waste at least on the edge of the property, stemming from its location across from the former Regis Tannery at the Wight Street intersection.

The property has been previously checked for pollution and would have to be rechecked, but according to Raymond Director of Community Development and Administrative Services Ernie Cartier Creveling, the consensus among those who have been involved with testing the property is that little other than site work and putting in a hefty new layer of loam would be required. The property is subject to flooding and when that happens, material is carried into the river, so work on recovering and developing the property to improve the conditions and limit flooding is considered a good thing from a conservation perspective.

Abutters, however, are not happy with the prospect of a public park with a launch next to their property. For them the project raises privacy, traffic and security issues.

No taxpayer money would be used for the project, Creveling emphasized.

Supporters of the project include those who see it as an economic benefit to Raymond's downtown, or who consider it a way to provide families with access to a natural resource. Kayak and canoe enthusiasts say it will offer easy, in-town access to the Lamprey River for boating.

Raymond resident Carolyn Matthews supports the project and noted that "a park, near the Exit 4 (of Highway 101) gateway into town, where the historic district, the rail trail, and the Lamprey River converge, can signal to all that we are a thriving town where quality of life is valued. Preserving the floodplain in this area is also critical; parks are often used for this purpose."

Kim Hamilton, however, said she doesn't want the property to become a public launch. "It would be right in my backyard," she said. She foresees security and privacy issues if a park were to be developed in that location.

Hamilton said Old Manchester Road is busy during the school year and even during the summer, and thinks adding a park and launch would produce parking issues. She noted a launch site behind the Lamprey River Elementary School could be used and wondered why one would be constructed behind homes.

The project has the support of the Raymond Board of Selectmen. It has been brought before that body on several occasions and the feedback has been to continue with its planning.

Funding for the project has been sought through grants. The cost of the property is estimated at $75,000, while the asking price at the moment is $89,000. The total overall cost of the project would be $178,000.

The town has received assurance of a $37,500 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund if a $37,500 match is provided by the Raymond Conservation Commission. Conservation Fund money is not taxpayer money.

At its meeting of May 27, 2015, the Conservation Commission agreed to support the project and provide the $37,500 so the project could move forward and the process to negotiate a purchase and sales agreement could begin, under the authorization of the Board of Selectmen. Local businesses have offered to donate material and labor for the demolition and removal of the buildings at cost and also do the site work. These contributions amount to about $38,600, according to Creveling.

The Conservation Commission funding would not be approved and expended, however, until after a public hearing is held, but that would come after the purchase and sales agreement is negotiated.

The town is trying to obtain a grant from Eversource to take the place of a grant for $43,550 that the town did not receive.

Without the support of the Conservation Commission and access to its $37,500 in matching dollars, the project would not go forward. At the May 27 Conservation Commission meeting, alternate Jan Kent made a motion to support the project by providing funding to match the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant up to $37,500.

Kent said she supports the project because it will take advantage of the opportunity to protect the river and the watershed and improve water quality. She said the project would also achieve erosion control. And she pointed out that if people object to the project, they have opportunities to stop it.

"But personally," she said, "I think it is going to be a nice place which families can use to access the river and go down the river."

Sandi Courtemanche, who lives on Old Manchester Road near the project site, is against the project. She said the park site is on the road to the Town's Safety Complex, which houses police and fire. She said traffic speeds by going to the safety complex or responding to an emergency and the project would add more traffic.

"In the event of an emergency, what would happen if a car pulling a boat was trying to back into the property, further blocking traffic and backing traffic up," she said. "And in that situation I would not be able to get out of my driveway.

“This project will not bring in tax dollars and I don't feel the Board of Selectmen have the authority to push this through without the townspeople having the opportunity and the right to vote on it,” she said.

John Beauvilliers, a Raymond kayak and canoe enthusiast, supports the project. "I think the project has real potential and would be an asset,” he said. “It would allow more families access to the river and encourage people to get out and enjoy our local natural resources and have it available right here in town. I think it is a great thing and overall a great value for the town."

Creveling plans to seek authorization from the Board of Selectmen to begin the process of negotiating a purchase and sales agreement with the Thibault Family Irrevocable Trust, as well as continuing to pursue grants to fund the project. He said no taxpayer money will be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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