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Six years later, sidewalk project comes to fruition

August 18, 2010
After nearly a decade of hard work and community effort, Gilford's Class of 2010 will finally reap the benefits of their blood, sweat and tears, and see the sidewalk project on Alvah Wilson Road completed this fall.

Although the class has already graduated and would have liked to walk down the completed sidewalk before dispersing for college, many students have stayed closely involved with the project over the years, along with retired Gilford teacher Linda Wright, who helped them start the project back in seventh grade.

Construction on the final phase of the sidewalk project started last Thursday. Although it will only take a few months to finish, the process itself took years to complete because the final phase is funded by the state and the town must meet federal guidelines.

Department of Public Works Operations Manager Dustin Muzzey said the final phase is funded by the Transportation Enhancement grant and that 80 percent of the project will be funded, while the Gilford School District must match the remaining 20 percent of the cost. The entire project is estimated to cost $168,000.

"It won't be completed until October, although most of the work will be completed in September. We are waiting on a guard rail, and right now we are getting the sidewalks in and paving them," said Muzzey.

Belknap Mountain Road and the school side of Alvah Wilson Road will be connected by a new sidewalk which ties into the school campus and leads to a guarded intersection verse Route 11A and terminates at Spruce Wood Drive where several students reside.

One side of the bridge that crosses Gunstock Brook will also be updated to federal standards, while the final project ensures optimal pedestrian safety.

"It gets people off the road. We have a four to five foot painted shoulder, but the sidewalk will actually take them off the road," said Muzzey. "It's a safer alternative and it is elevated four to six inches above the road so the kids are higher than the traffic."

The DPW was first involved with the project in 2002-2003 when a sewer extension by Gilford Village went in and the first phase of the sidewalk was completed. While the DPW has been involved with the actual work, the project and finances remain within the realm of the school.

When asked to help with contract support years back, the department agreed wholeheartedly and Muzzey said even though the final phase of the project was stalled with paperwork and meeting federal standards, everyone in town is still looking forward to the finished product.

"The teacher involved with the project is still very proud and interested in the project, as well as the students who wanted to see it through. Now they can come back home and see the sidewalk during winter break," said Muzzey.

Gilford Assistant Superintendent of Business Scott Isabelle said a pre-construction meeting for the final phase of the sidewalk project was held on Monday and state approval was received last Wednesday – the day prior to construction.

This multi-year project involved not only the students, but local contractors and the DPW crew, who worked along with the dedicated youths. The students also learned to write a petitioned warrant article, accepted by the town at the 2006 elections.

Isabelle said the sidewalk from Belknap Mountain Road to Alvah Wilson Road would provide safety by the school facilities and the Gilford Village. Since it is steep on Alvah Wilson, an additional sidewalk will be added to the backside of the Gilford High School gymnasium for wheelchair accessibility.

Isabelle added that upgrading the school side of the bridge, as part of the federal grant will also benefit the town in the future, since the both sides would have needed improvements eventually.

Linda Wright, ecstatic over the recent news, said this project started out as part of a seventh grade curriculum with the Class of 2010. She was proud to say a dozen students have stayed dedicated to the project over the past decade.

Wright said without the help of the community and local contractors and businesses, the project might have remained a dream for her seventh grade classroom.

"I just wanted a bigger piece of community learning for the students. They realized a small group could change the world," said Wright, referring to her family and consumer science class. "I went on a walk with the class to look at what we needed or what was missing, and we realized we could use some sidewalks for safety."

Although the project wasn't completed as soon as they had hoped, Wright said this was a great learning experience for the kids, who realized what a federal project sometimes entails.

"The kids presented plans and had to learn and solve real issues. They had to contact people and presented to the Lakes Region Planning Board and the New Hampshire Transportation Department. They did a great job," said Wright.

The students also went before the Board of Selectmen twice, the Gilford Planning Board, and the Historic District and Heritage Commission to present their sidewalk plans in the projects developing stage.

Wright said she couldn't be more proud of the work her students have done over the years, and has stayed in touch with them even now, making sure they are updated on every sidewalk project breakthrough.

The School District, the DPW, the Rotary Club, Jack Lyman Construction, Northeast Laser Grading, Pike Industries, and Fluet Engineering among others have also aided in the project over the years.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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