In Franklin, annual kayak run gives way to talk of urban renewal In Franklin, annual kayak run gives way to talk of urban renewal

Last modified: 1/2/2015 12:19:52 PM
For the 34th time, kayakers took to the water yesterday in Franklin, maneuvering their miniature boats through a bevy of white-capped rapids to mark the dawn of a new year.

The annual First Day celebration, now in its 10th official year, drew several dozen spectators and more than a few veteran outdoor enthusiasts, who braved frigid temperatures, both in and out of the Winnipesaukee River. Weather conditions were milder than last year, but the river seemed as swift and rough as ever, flinging at least one kayaker overboard (he emerged cold but otherwise unscathed).

The event began more than three decades ago as a loose protest against river contamination, said Sarah Stanley, co-chairwoman of Choose Franklin, the organizing group. Choose Franklin took over a decade ago, setting up a heated tent and lawn games in Trestle View Park, where the river course ends.

But this year, perhaps more than any before, talks turned to renewal, a priority that Franklin and countless former mill towns have grappled with over the years, as industry wanes. A developer has put forth a plan to revitalize the downtown corridor using permaculture, an adaptive, sustainable farming technique. And some historic buildings have already received a facelift.

“Franklin has an undeserved reputation, and part of what this (event) is, is to show the positive side,” said Bob Lucas, a member of Choose Franklin.

Lucas moved to Franklin from Connecticut four years ago, after retiring and hoping to be closer to relatives in Maine. He and his wife were searching for a home near Concord and stumbled upon the tiny riverfront city, whose population just tops 8,000.

“Franklin is a great community,” Lucas said.

Other transplants seem cautiously optimistic about its future. Leigh Webb, a Choose Franklin member and a former state representative who arrived nearly a decade ago from Hollywood, stressed the need for sustained capital investment.

“We seem to always be on the cusp of something,” he said, adding that revitalization is “not going to happen by itself.”

“It could take 10, 15 years before an investor gets that money back,” Webb said.

Webb also heads the Franklin Historical Society, and he moved to the city with his wife, Annette Andreozzi, co-chairwoman of Choose Franklin, after purchasing a weathered Victorian mansion near downtown. He said his hope is that the city’s center can one day house creative new businesses while maintaining its antiquated, recreation-friendly character.

“We need to first recognize the potential,” Webb said. “And I think that’s what we’re doing.”



(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

For the 34th time, kayakers took to the water yesterday in Franklin, maneuvering their miniature boats through a bevy of white-capped rapids to mark the dawn of a new year.

The annual First Day celebration, now in its 10th official year, drew several dozen spectators and more than a few veteran outdoor enthusiasts, who braved frigid temperatures, both in and out of the Winnipesaukee River. Weather conditions were milder than last year, but the river seemed as swift and rough as ever, flinging at least one kayaker overboard (he emerged cold but otherwise unscathed).

The event began more than three decades ago as a loose protest against river contamination, said Sarah Stanley, co-chairwoman of Choose Franklin, the organizing group. Choose Franklin took over a decade ago, setting up a heated tent and lawn games in Trestle View Park, where the river course ends.

But this year, perhaps more than any before, talks turned to renewal, a priority that Franklin and countless former mill towns have grappled with over the years, as industry wanes. A developer has put forth a plan to revitalize the downtown corridor using permaculture, an adaptive, sustainable farming technique. And some historic buildings have already received a facelift.

“Franklin has an undeserved reputation, and part of what this (event) is, is to show the positive side,” said Bob Lucas, a member of Choose Franklin.

Lucas moved to Franklin from Connecticut four years ago, after retiring and hoping to be closer to relatives in Maine. He and his wife were searching for a home near Concord and stumbled upon the tiny riverfront city, whose population just tops 8,000.

“Franklin is a great community,” Lucas said.

Other transplants seem cautiously optimistic about its future. Leigh Webb, a Choose Franklin member and a former state representative who arrived nearly a decade ago from Hollywood, stressed the need for sustained capital investment.

“We seem to always be on the cusp of something,” he said, adding that revitalization is “not going to happen by itself.”

“It could take 10, 15 years before an investor gets that money back,” Webb said.

Webb also heads the Franklin Historical Society, and he moved to the city with his wife, Annette Andreozzi, co-chairwoman of Choose Franklin, after purchasing a weathered Victorian mansion near downtown. He said his hope is that the city’s center can one day house creative new businesses while maintaining its antiquated, recreation-friendly character.

“We need to first recognize the potential,” Webb said. “And I think that’s what we’re doing.”



(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)




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