PLRR: WOW Trail Consultant Hired

City of Laconia Contracts Feasibility Study of WOW Trail Extension to Weirs Beach. But There’s a Railroad in the Way.

04 December, Laconia NH – Alta Planning and Design, of Cambridge NH has received a contract for $39,465 [1] to study issues related to extending the current 2.7-mile Winnisquam-Opechee-Winnipesaukee (WOW) Trail {Rick Green, Laconia Daily Sun 04.Dec.2018}. Unofficially, WOW advocates want to develop the narrative that the trail would be more beneficial to the region than the existing, active, state-owned Concord – Lincoln rail corridor.

The WOW trail currently runs from the Leslie Roberts Town Beach in Belmont to the Lakeport area of Laconia. Its path generally conforms within the rail corridor, detouring on city streets around the Jewett Brook trestle. At its proposed extent to Weirs Beach, the trail would inhabit the corridor. The route includes several additional constricted rail bridges, tunnels, cuts, and berms {}. Citing efficacy and safety concerns, WOW advocates envision the trail adhering to the corridor and away from roadways, and also being free of potential railroad conflict – i.e ., they want to get rid of the track, cease operations by Plymouth & Lincoln Railroad, a common carrier, and tar the bed as a permanent trail.

Comparison of five rail-trail build schemes. A reasonable assumption is that the choices are increasingly costly from top to bottom. When it comes to narrow bridges, cuts, etc., railroads built before an area was settled shouldn’t be penalized for not anticipating the future desire to use the ROW for anything other than what it was surveyed and constructed for. {Dave McCusker , P. Eng., Halifax Regional Municipality}.

WOW’s plans are also facing challenges from property owners, particularly along Paugus Bay. While property owners may only grudgingly bear the charms of the passing rail tours and the occasional freight job, they are very concerned that individuals on bikes and foot might indulge in unsavory or criminal activity on the trail, and compromise the privacy of residents.

Alta’s commission is to examine:

  1. How much it would cost to complete the entire trail by building the path alongside the railroad tracks, and how much it would cost by replacing the tracks with the trail.
  2. The economic impact to the region and the state based on the current use of the rail system.
  3. The economic impact of a trail from Weirs Beach to Franklin in place of a rail system.
  4. Recreation, transportation and health benefits that might be realized from a completed rail trail from Weirs Beach to Franklin.
  5. How would a completed trail system, in place of rail, impact the snowmobile community?
  6. Is it feasible for the current lessee, the Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad, to continue to operate tourist trains and its maintenance business with an interrupted line?
  7. If the current rail line was interrupted from Weirs Beach to Northfield to construct the trail, what impact would this have on tourism and future commercial rail use?{Green, 12.04.18}

[1] This amount is nearly 4x the original study budget proposed ($10,000) to the City Council at the 13.Nov.2017 meeting {Rick Green, Laconia Daily Sun Nov.2017}.