A little shift of town borders and Tilton should finally own island park outright

  • The Tilton Island Park, in the Winnipe-saukee River, is one of the area’s peaceful landmarks. The bridge that leads from the street to the island is on the National Register of Historic Places. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 3/9/2021 4:37:34 PM

The Tilton Island Park, a landmark site with a historic bridge, is one step closer to being having one owner instead of two.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill Tuesday allowing the towns of Tilton and Northfield to shift their mutual border, putting the small island in the middle of the Winnipesaukee River solely within Tilton, which has the only bridge reaching the island.

The issue will come before both town meetings this year. Both meetings previously approved the idea before it got entangled in legal questions resulting from the island’s donation to both towns by the family of 19th-century mill owner Charles E. Tilton.

“We had to get an attorney to work out the kinks,” said Tilton Town Administrator Jeanie Forrester.

The island, which includes a gazebo, is used for a number of public events such as weddings and free concerts. Under the current arrangement, events must be approved officials in both towns, complicating things. It doesn’t help that Tilton is in Belknap County and Northfield in Merrimack County.

Northfield, which has no direct access to the island, has long indicated that it is willing to surrender its portion of ownership and upkeep.

The change comes as attempts are being made to preserve the Tilton Island Park Bridge. The 85-foot bridge, built in 1881, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it appears to be the last remaining example of a Truesdell bridge, referring to its construction using methods patented by architect Lucius Truesdell.

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance put the bridge on its “seven to save” list in 2020, saying that without repairs it might “succumb to the elements and neglect, just as many of our other metal truss bridges in New Hampshire have.” The group put a listing of many metal truss bridge on its “Seven to Save” list in 2008 for that reason.

Tilton and Northfield have an intertwined history thanks largely to Charles Tilton, who was born in the area and made his fortune supplying goods to miners during the California gold rush and later in real estate, banking and railroads. He returned a millionaire and built a mansion on that is now houses the Tilton School library, as well as a house on the island. He also built the Tilton Arch which, confusingly, is in Northfield; Charles Tilton had assumed the two towns would merge but after his death, residents had other ideas.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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