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Proposal relocates town beach

  • McKenna Johansen, of Lebanon, right, cools off with her daughter Molly, 1, and son Jack, 6, left, at Shakoma Beach on Mascoma Lake in Enfield, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. The Selectboard will hear a proposal at its Sept. 6, meeting to replace Shakoma with a new beach on a 1.5 acre Parcel at the end of Johnston Drive. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — James M. Patterson

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    Kelsey Hinchcliff, of Lebanon, crosses Route 4A from a parking area to Shakoma Beach on Mascoma Lake in Enfield, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. The Selectboard will hear a proposal at its Sept. 6 meeting from Town Manager Ed Morris to replace Shakoma with a new beach on a 1.5 acre parcel owned by the town on Johnston Drive. "As a mom, you can't relax unless your kids are right in front of you," said Hinchcliff because the Shakoma Beach is sandwiched between a busy intersection and the water. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

  • Boaters pass the site proposed as a new Enfield, N.H., town beach by Town Manager Ed Morris on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. The 1.5 acre parcel at the end of Johnston Drive would replace Shakoma Beach, at the corner of Route 4A and Main Street. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/5/2022 8:48:15 PM
Modified: 9/7/2022 9:17:32 AM

ENFIELD — Town officials are considering a proposal for a new public beach on town-owned land on Lake Mascoma.

Enfield Town Manager Ed Morris will present the $50,000 project at the Sept. 19 Selectboard meeting. About 1.5 acres of grassy lakefront land off the Northern Rail Trail on Johnston Drive — off Route 4 near the Lebanon town line — would become a public swimming spot. Ideally, the beach would replace Shakoma Beach, which is at the intersection of Main Street and Route 4A off Shaker Bridge, which crosses Lake Mascoma.

“My big push is safety,” Morris said during an interview at Johnston Drive last week, echoing concerns shared by Enfield Police Chief Roy Holland.

Parking for Shakoma is across Route 4A and people must use a crosswalk to get to the beach.

This summer, a teenager using that crosswalk was seriously injured after being hit by a car.

“Sometimes it can be hard to see someone standing on the side of the road getting ready to go into the crosswalk until the last second,” Holland said. “That intersection of 4A and Main Street just continues to get busier and busier.”

That is something that Kelsey Hinchcliff, of Lebanon, worries about. In order to get from the parking lot to the crosswalk, she must climb down 24 wooden stairs. Last week, she navigated those steps with her 4-year-old daughter, Quinn, and her 18-month-old son, Avery, and her 6-year-old son, Rowan.

“Crossing (Route 4A) is definitely a concern,” she said.

Once she crosses the street, she then must navigate down a steep grade that serves as the access to the beach. The proximity to the roads, which have a speed limit of 30 mph, also concern her.

“As a mom, you can’t relax because the road is so close,” Hinchcliff said.

While her family appreciates Shakoma — particularly the sand — she would welcome a location that’s a little more secluded. “I love the idea of it being on the rail trail. Riding my bike to the beach with my kids would be fantastic.”

Enfield resident Lisa Ayers visits Shakoma several times a week with her grandchildren.

Each time, she walks along the beach picking up pieces of discarded glass. She worries that, since the town is unable to maintain the current beach, creating a new one will be problematic.

“What’s the sense if you’re not going to take care of it though?” she said holding a handful of glass in a paper towel and pointing to dirty diapers left on a lifeguard stand. “It’s a mess.”

Shakoma Beach is open to the public and people are asked to purchase a parking pass from the town offices to use the lot.

There is also a boat launch across the street and sometimes there is competition for parking spots.

Vehicles and trailers often line up along Route 4A on busy days, which can further impede visibility of pedestrians, Holland said.

“Because of how it’s a drop-off onto that beach, I’m afraid that some accident is going to happen someday on that intersection and a vehicle is going to end up on the beach when it’s full of people using it,” Holland said.

He also worries about parents like Hinchcliff. “There’s no safe way for say a family to pull up drop their kids off, unload and then park.”

Since Route 4A is a state road, town officials are limited in what they can do to improve its safety, including changing the speed limit. While state officials have given the town permission to put in blinking lights at the crosswalk, the town would have to pay $25,000 per sign.

“Even with an enhanced crosswalk (at Shakoma), Johnston Drive is going to be a much safer location for a beach,” Holland said.

Morris estimates it will cost around $50,000 to convert the 1.7 acres of land into a beach.

His proposal includes a gravel lot with space for 15 to 18 vehicles and improvements to Johnston Drive, which is a private road.

The town would also put up buoys and ropes in the water to show where the sandbar drops off, and to alert boaters to the swimming area.

The slope leading down to the water also is at a more gradual incline than Shakoma, which makes it more handicap accessible.

Town employees would continue to mow the lawn like they have been this summer.

“I would leave it natural,” Morris said. “It would be a great place to bring kids and have them splash around in the water without having to worry about them going too far out.”

Barbara Jones, who lives on Johnston Drive and has a right-of-way to the lake, does not want to see the parcel turned into the town beach.

“I love it exactly the way it is right now,” Jones said.

She also has concerns about Johnston Drive itself, which is a narrow, bumpy road that she worries will not be able to handle an increase in traffic. She also pointed out that the speed limit on the section of Route 4 at the turn onto Johnston Drive is 40 MPH.

Instead, she would like to see the town designate the land off Johnston Drive as a picnic area: “There should be signage there saying this is a public space.”

Some residents have expressed concerns about potentially closing Shakoma Beach, which is convenient for pedestrians from some neighborhoods, Selectboard Chairman John Kluge said.

Morris has discussed making the rail trail crossing safer with Holland and members of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, a nonprofit organization that supports the Northern Rail Trail.

“If townspeople choose to create a beach/park on the Johnston Road tract, the State of New Hampshire, which is the owner of the rail trail right-of-way, would be the other responsible party involved in site design,” Lindy Heim, co-president of the nonprofit organization, wrote in an email. “As it has in the past, FNRT would be happy to collaborate with both parties in creating a safe crossing for rail trail users should a decision in favor of a beach/park be supported by Enfield residents.”

The land used to belong to a railroad, which turned it over to the state. The state then turned it over to the town of Enfield. At the time, there were a handful of people who owned camps or small cabins on the land, Morris said.

The owners struck an agreement with the town that they would continue to use the land until the owners died or signed it over to the town; the properties could not be sold or passed on to another family member. The last property was signed over to the town this year.

“Now that we own it outright, we need to figure out what to do with it,” Morris said.

Another option could be selling the land to generate revenue for the town.

That’s something Kluge does not want to see happen. Around 30 years ago, the town had an opportunity to purchase the parcel at the southern part of the lake that was then occupied by the Mascoma Lake Lodge.

“It seemed pretty darn attractive and it came to Town Meeting and the voters simply voted it down,” Kluge recalled of the property that subsequently became the site of multiple homes.

Years after that, the town had another opportunity to purchase a marina on Main Street near the parking lot for what is now Lakeside Park. That too was turned down and is now a single-family home.

“The town has been a little tightfisted when it comes to buying lakeside priority,” Kluge said. “I can understand why. For a lot of people that’s a luxury they feel they cannot afford.”

What makes this proposal different, he said, is that the town already owns the land.

“We’re obligated, I think, to do something with it, something creative and something good for the people in town,” Kluge said. “It’s just a matter of the details.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

CORRECTION: Kelsey Hinchcliff, of Lebanon, crossed Route 4A with her 4-year-old daughter, Quinn; her 18-month-old son, Avery; and her 6-year-old son, Rowan. An earlier version of this story misstated the children with whom she crossed the street.


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