New Lakeside Park in Enfield ‘Just the Tip of the Iceberg’

  • Enfield resident and selectwoman Meredith Smith sits between her husband, Doug Smith, and her granddaughter, Gillian Lenihan, after the official opening of Mascoma Lake Park on Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Enfield, N.H. The property is owned by the N.H. Department of Transportation and was largely overgrown and unused, but now features several picnic tables and a paved non-motorized boat launch. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Mac Snyder

  • Enfield resident Teddy Lenihan, 7, left, wades into the waters of Lake Mascoma as Carl Russell, 7, walks up the paved non-motorized boat launch after canoeing with his family at the newly opened Lake Mascoma Park on Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Enfield, N.H. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sisters Gillian Lenihan, left, and Elizabeth Lenihan enjoy a friendly splash-fight at the newly opened Lake Mascoma Park on Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Enfield, N.H. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Mac Snyder

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2016 12:05:58 AM
Modified: 7/31/2016 1:03:29 AM

Enfield — For Meredith Smith, who was elected to the Enfield Selectboard this past March, Saturday’s grand opening of the first portion of Mascoma Lakeside Park was a milestone in a 13-year effort to turn a small stretch of overgrown shore into a community resource.

Ideas for how to improve a small town are plentiful, but not too many get to this point: a crowd of dozens of people gathered at the park’s location, which was also the recent endpoint of the Enfield Old Home Days Parade, standing in a rough semicircle around Smith, who stood out by the dint of her red outfit covered in large white polka dots.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, drawing applause as she pointed out the first, tangible features of the park: a few picnic benches, a careful manicuring of the lakefront brush and, at the centerpiece, a new non-motorized boat launch made of paving stones stretching down to the water.

The site has traditionally been used as a boat launch, but Smith said the dragging of boat bottoms across the muddy ground cut up the shore and allowed for an increased flow of nutrient-bearing sediments into the water, a contributing factor in the spread of invasive milfoil.

As part of Saturday’s celebration, the town hosted a group picnic that drew a few families to the newly established picnic tables. There were also kayaks and canoes from Pak Boats, an Enfield boat company, on hand so that people could use the launch.

“It’s a lot easier to carry the boat down,” said Hana Massecar, who was there with her husband, Erik Russell, and their two sons, Ian Massecar, 5, and Carl Russell, 7. She said the family has used the spot as a boat launch about a dozen times over the last few years. “It’s a lot more inviting without the dirt here.”

Tara Lenihan, who is Smith’s daughter-in-law, said that this second annual attempt at a group picnic was much improved over the inaugural attempt at the end of last year’s parade.

“Last year, we didn’t really know what we were doing,” she said. “There was just a little strip of grass.”

Lenihan, who works at a day care and moved to Enfield from Concord with her own children several years ago, said that the project demonstrated the ability of a small, close-knit community to come together to get things done.

“I’m so grateful for my kids to be growing up where they know who the people are,” she said.

Massecar said she was excited to see what might come next in the town’s efforts to upgrade the spot, which is a hub that allows for access from cars and pedestrians from Main Street, Mascoma boaters, as well as cyclists and walkers along the Northern Rail Trail.

As part of a larger plan for the park, the bypass road that currently runs between the lakeside and a chunk of the rail trail paralleling Main Street will be restricted to emergency vehicle access.

Over the coming years Smith and the other project backers who make up the Mascoma Lakeside Park Committee, which she chairs, hope to secure grant funding and donations that will allow for the construction of a multi-use public building, an amphitheater with terraced seating, public restrooms, an information kiosk inside a rain shelter, and a parking lot.

The park is situated on roughly 4 acres of lakefront land owned by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which acquired the properties to build the bypass road as part of their project to replace Shaker Road Bridge. The bridge replacement project began in 1998, and discussions about what the area should look like after the project caused Smith to first come up with the idea for the park in 2003, said Smith.

“I had it in mind all along that this would be a fantastic park,” she said, gesturing at the picturesque view of the lake. Smith said the key to making the park a reality was “cussed determination.”

“I am not going to rest until this becomes a reality,” she said. She estimated that she’d spent hundreds of hours developing proposals for the property and getting other groups — the DOT, the Mascoma Lake Association, the Mascoma Sailing Club, Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, the Enfield Village Association, N.H. Lakes Association, the Upper Valley Board of Realtors, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Initiative and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, among others — to buy into the idea.

The town asked the DOT to give it the properties, but the two parties agreed on a long-term management agreement in which the state retains ownership of the land.

Right now, many of the components of the park, such as the multi-purpose building, are just concepts with no engineering or design plans on the table, and inadequate funding in place. Smith hopes that $700,000 of the DOT project that is earmarked for Main Street improvements will be used to advance the idea of the park, and the Enfield Village Association is also forming a nonprofit organiztion to apply for grant funding.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.




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