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Profile Lake Trail proposal pauses for breath

May 31, 2017
FRANCONIA—Selectmen declared temporary victory in their opposition to the proposed trail extension and boardwalk at Profile Lake. According to citizens involved with the project, resistance has been heard clearly. As part of the ongoing dialogue between town, state, and citizens, the process seems likely to become more deliberative as a result of initial push-back.

Supporters of the include the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund and the state Department of Parks and Recreation. The Fund had envisioned the trail as part of a wider project of commemorating te famous rick fixture, including a viewing plaza. Naturally, the state has an interest in promoting recreational opportunity. Proponents have also argued that the trail would be universally accessible, while existing trails are not.

Opponents of the project include wilderness conservation aficionados, who have been leery of the granite blocks planned to be sunk into the lake, and not a few fly fishermen. The latter group would lose some fifteen hundred feet of casting area. Opponents have also raised safety concerns about the proposed trail's close proximity to I-93.

The Franconia Selectmen have come out clearly against the project, citing disruption to the lake shore. Selectman Eric Meth has raised doubts about the added value of the trail, and whether it is the best way to celebrate the Old Man of the Mountain.

The Legacy Fund currently has some $150,000, and seems to be eagerly looking for a way to use it. The Fund's mission is planned to finish in 2018, but could be extended.

The Franconia Conservation Commission questioned the need for the proposal at last week's meeting as well. One member expressed the view that the Profile Lake area does not require disability-accessible trails, since there are other such opportunities in the Notch.

There was some movement in the Commission to recommend alternative projects, such as some variant of the "Plan B" that would instead develop the far side of Profile Lake. An artistic bridge accessing the Pemigewasset trail was suggested. However, the mood of the commission quickly resolved against lending it support to any initiative. Rather, members generally agreed that their role was to constrain development, and that this was primarily involved saying "no," not "yes."

One board member strongly involved in the process reported that following initial push-back, the state and Legacy Fund will be pursuing a public forum process in the immediate future.

"The goal of slowing things down has been accomplished," they said.

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