April 28, 2014LITTLETON—Ongoing river district improvements have many moving parts. Dave Ernsberger, a member of the commission studying economic development in the area, has become a leading spokesman for the effort. Ernsberger leads the commission's sub-committee charged with private fundraising, as well as the special projects meant to increase the district's attractiveness for visitors and locals.
Ernsberger provided an update on his sub-committee's effort during a meeting of the commission last month. He expanded on the discussion in a subsequent call with the Courier. A major plan includes several activities over Glad Day weekend (June 13-15). Three days of events are meant to celebrate the Pollyanna spirit behind Littleton's past successes and future river district re-development.
Town voters authorized $80,000 in spending this year for continued study of infrastructure, rights of way, and other district planning. As Ernsberger said last week to explain the drive for private fundraising, "As we're asking the taxpayers to see the benefit" of river district revitalization, "we needed to talk with businesses."
Ernsberger said the optimism in the Pollyanna story is "very much alive and well" in Littleton. From planned Second Friday Art Night activities on June 13 to a Fathers Day community brunch on June 15, Ernsberger hopes the weekend will invite people "to see what's special along the Ammonoosuc."
Like last year, Second Friday Art Nights are meant to "bring the downtown area alive with music," Ernsberger said. Demos and other work at art galleries and stores, he continued, do a great job highlighting "the creative capabilities of the town."
June 14 is the town's traditional Pollyanna Day celebration. The ceremony at the library's statue of Pollyanna will start at 11 a.m. At noon, Ernsberger said a ribbon cutting will take place for the new demonstration projects designed to link Main Street to the river. These include archways, a new view deck overlooking the Ammonossuc, and additional river district signage.
New fencing around the view deck, which will be on the riverbank due south of Ernsberger's store The Nest, is meant to improve safety, he said. Along the area, an old wooden fence is slated for replacement by new black iron fencing. The fence is similar to what was installed along South Street, Ernsberger noted.
Another activity set for June 14, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., is "Rock, Brews, and River Views," a music event hosted by Schilling Beer Company. Ernsberger said three bands are already set for that part for the day: Tritium Well, Dave Keller Band, and Brooks Young Band.
Ernsberger's fundraising outreach is paying for the cost of the projects set for celebration during the weekend. As of the commission's April 3 meeting, Ernsberger's work had raised $183,500 to support overall river district improvement.
Private fundraising was seen as an important element for the river district from the beginning of the town's focus on the area between the Ammonoosuc and Main Street. At the development brainstorm that started it all more than 18 months ago, sources of funding other than local taxpayers was deemed a necessity.
The effort to expand private fundraising is ongoing. Ernsberger has been setting up more meetings with several area stakeholders.
With momentum on the side of the river district, Ernsberger said he is inspired by the "multi generational support for the success and growth of Littleton." Several donors have provided $20,000 for the river district, he said. Whether through tax dollars or private funds, Ernsberger said, "The town once again has been very generous."
Founded as a "hard working, strong-willed, creative community," Littleton has shown, Ernsberger said, that such a worldview continues to prevail.
As he reflected on the past and looked forward with a Pollyanna spirit, Ernsberger said, "Littleton gets things done."