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Riverfront Park open in winter, but not for everyone

October 07, 2009
TILTON — A question as to who will plow the Riverfront Park parking lot this winter has evolved into a question regarding park accessibility in the winter, something that may be necessary because of a grant stipulation that the park be four seasons.

The Board of Selectmen maintain that the park is open for cross country skiing, sledding and other winter activities, but a couple residents at a recent select board meeting questioned just how "open" it is if the stairs aren't shoveled and is not handicapped accessible.

"It's been officially closed," resident Vince Paratore said.

The board clarified that although the town closes the building and doesn't maintain lights or shovel the stairs, the park is still open for people who want to use it.

Jim Cropsy, who owns Riverfront Place and shares the Riverfront Park parking lot with the town, said the park is indeed used in the winter.

"There's a lot of sledding and tobogganing on that hill," he said.

Still, some fear that one of the grants procured by the town to build the park requires it to be a four-season park, and that by not having adequate parking and not being American Disability Act compliant, the grant money could be retracted.

"All those spaces should be kept clear," Pat Clark, who was instrumental in building the park, said of winter parking lot maintenance. "It was supposed to be a four-season park; it really is important to keep that open."

In the past couple of years, Cropsy has plowed the lot and removed all the snow, but this year, in an effort to save money, he's in the process of determining whether it would be less expensive for him to have someone plow just his portion of the lot. Whether that lot needs to be cleared is unknown, Board Chair Katherine Dawson said, in terms of the grant. Dawson was on the committee that helped write the grant and said the park was actually built for four seasons.

"We designed it (to be four seasons)," she said. "That hill, we cleared boulders so that it could be used as a sledding hill."

There's also an area that was leveled off should the town ever want to flood it for ice skating, though Dawson said they haven't so far because the Tilton School "has always been most generous" in letting residents use its pond. The park is also available for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

"The question is, how open do we need to make it?" Dawson said. "Do we need to make it ADA (compliant)?"

The handicapped-accessible drop-off, located right by the park's entrance on Route 3, has not been cleared in past winters. Dawson recently sent a letter to the Governor's Commission on Disability Accessibility to ask what the town needs to do to ensure the park is in compliance.

"I didn't realize, even the ADA drop-off was not cleared," Dawson said. "As far as the stairs go, how much of the park do we have to make accessible?"

Dawson said Monday that she was awaiting an answer to her letter and would move forward based on that. She said she didn't anticipate they would have to shovel the stairs, which aren't handicapped-accessible anyway, but that the handicapped path that was designed specifically for people in wheelchairs might have to be kept clear.

A reply from Wendy Beckwith, accessibility specialist, later that day didn't clarify matters much. Beckwith said she didn't feel confident she could sort out the many facets of Dawson's question and recommended that the town look over ADA manuals and contact the ADA technical assistance line.

"How can we say the park is 'kind of closed'?" Paratore asked at the meeting. "It's definitely closed to people in wheelchairs I can't imagine you can just pick and choose oh, we'll have it open, but not (make it) ADA (compliant)."

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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