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The year in perspective

2010: a year of progress and change

A sense of history! Community members from all around the region came out in their finest Victorian regalia for the Centennial Celebration of the former Boston and Maine Plymouth Train Depot in September. The Depot is now refurbished and serves as the bustling Plymouth Regional Senior Center. The gala event was a highlight of an eventful 2010 in the Plymouth and Newfound region. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
December 28, 2010
REGION—Given the sluggish economy and the stagnation of the ongoing national recession, 2010 is unlikely ever to be remembered as a banner year for anyone or anything. But the patient observer, reflecting back on a year of slow but constant change, can readily detect the signs of incipient progress along several fronts, as the region makes tentative but promising steps toward creating a strong, vital future.

The local foods movement continues to grow steadily, with successful local farmer's markets sprouting up in several new locations. Adding to the already popular summer Plymouth Farmer's Market and year round online Local Foods Plymouth offerings, as well as Danbury's Winter Farmer's Market (every Saturday now through the spring), new markets began this year in New Hampton and Campton, proving profitable to farmers and consumers alike.

Energy efficiency efforts got a big boost, with Plymouth one of three communities in New Hampshire to receive a portion of New Hampshire's $10 million share of Retrofit Ramp Up federal funding for "Better Buildings," to establish a revolving loan fund at favorable rates, enabling homeowners and businesses to undertake weatherization and other energy efficiency upgrades at a significantly lower cost. Plymouth established an official Energy Commission to oversee projects and continue to seek grant funding where available. The town also received U.S. Rural Development funding for energy upgrades on municipal buildings, including an ambitious renovation of the Village Water and Sewer Offices as a demonstration project.

Residents of the Newfound School District also voted to participate in a long range Performance Energy Management contract, allowing the district to leverage state building aid, energy savings and other sources of funding for weatherization and energy retrofit work.

While the proposed wood biomass chip plant for the Plymouth schools came up short of the votes it needed at the annual District Meeting, voters did approve extensive renovation plans for Plymouth Elementary School which will go a long way to increasing energy efficiency at PES. The renovations were completed in time for school to start in September. They also provided safety improvements, and have given the facility a cheerful new look.

The new Grafton County Correctional Facility, finally under construction after several years of court wrangling over procedural issues, will feature geothermal heating and cooling, just like the beautiful state-of-the-art new Plymouth State University Ice Arena, built across the river in Holderness and recently opened to the public for community skating and hockey events.

The Pease Public Library in Plymouth is currently experiencing an exciting expansion and renovation, as patrons enjoy the experience of visiting the "satellite" library temporarily housed at the Plymouth Historical Museum while waiting eagerly for the beautiful new library to open in February.

While plans for an ambitious two-story expansion and renovation of the Minot Sleeper Library in Bristol were narrowly defeated at the annual Town Meeting, the Trustees are hard at work creating a slightly scaled-down plan for a one-story addition to bring to the 2011 Town Meeting. The handsome new building proposal has met with considerable excitement in the preliminary design stages of the project. Stay tuned.

The business community is also looking forward, with plans for a new Business Enterprise Center getting off the ground in Plymouth. The new facility, scheduled to be up and running full steam by 2013, will serve as an "incubator" for new startups and home-based businesses in the local area.

The Newfound and Plymouth Chambers of Commerce merged in 2010 under the expert guidance of energetic new Director Scott Stephens to form a leaner, more efficient and powerful organization, better able to support local businesses and market the region throughout New England and beyond.

After more than a decade of dedicated stewardship by talented Executive Director Chris Bolan, The Waterville Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce is also going through transition, with new Executive Director Joe Collie coming in with considerable experience in media and online marketing.

While Main Street Plymouth, Inc. is disbanding, or retiring, after years of helping to successfully transform the retail environment in downtown Plymouth, similar new economic revitalization initiatives are underway in Ashland and Bristol. May they be as successful as Main Street Plymouth, Inc. at reinvigorating business enterprise and a sense of community as Main Street Plymouth. Thank you to all who worked so hard for so many years to make Plymouth a "destination location."

Big changes are afoot in Bristol's Central Square downtown. After years, if not decades, of plans and proposals, voters at this year's Town Meeting approved a Central Square revitalization plan that has enabled the town to receive Transportation Enhancement Grant funding to reconfigure the square, create a Town Common and undertake many other improvements to the streetscape, enhancing the business climate and curb appeal of the downtown area. A Smart Routes to School grant is simultaneously improving pedestrian accessibility between the square and the Middle and Elementary School buildings. Excitement is building as new businesses start to move into the square, with the extremely popular Cornucopia Bakery and Blue Skies Whole Foods coming into the former Presidential Grille Building in January. With prospects for the demolition of the aging and deteriorating Mica Building on the horizon now that the town has taken the ill-fated edifice for back taxes, the adjacent Mill Ice Cream Café and Fudge Factory continues to thrive and prosper, with a booming online fudge shop and great music and great entertainment, live and local on a regular basis.

There are also great challenges ahead. The controversial proposed Groton Wind Farm project, to construct 24 wind turbines on Fletcher and Tenney Ridges in Groton, has been greeted with skepticism and concern by many in neighboring Plymouth and Rumney as the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission's Site Evaluation Committee proceedings have played out over the past few months. Decisions are not expected now for several more months.

Meanwhile, opposition to the Northern Pass proposal to construct more than 150 miles of new electrical transmission lines in northern New Hampshire, possibly coming through Wentworth, Plymouth and Rumney, has already begun to face local resistance that dwarfs the local Groton Wind Farm opposition.

There have been milestones and accomplishments recognized, from the Centennial Celebration of the Plymouth Train Depot, now the Plymouth Regional Senior Center, to the grand re-opening of the historic Plymouth movie theatre, repurposed as The Flying Monkey, an exciting new performance venue that is sure to attract tourists and others to Plymouth in droves in the upcoming years of its certain success.

There were a host of awards celebrating local achievers. Hebron's Police Chief was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, the Newfound Regional High School was named the 2010 Secondary School of Excellence, Holderness Central School's Angie Miller was named Teacher of the Year by the state Department of Education, and the Holderness Public Library, under the direction of Victoria Lang, was named Library of the Year by the New Hampshire Library Trustees Association. Are we great, or what?

There were losses, too, most notably 19-year-old Campton native Pfc. Marc Decoteau, who was killed in the servic of his country in Afghanistan early in the year. Hundreds of friends, relatives, neighbors and grateful community members came out to remember his exceptional contributions to his school and his community at a large memorial service held in the Plymouth Regional High School gymnasium.

Plymouth also lost the considerable talents and community spirit of former State Rep. Carol Estes.

Their legacy of caring and commitment will live on in the hearts of so many in the local region.

Finally, although there is so much more to tell, we will have to conclude this brief summary of the year in review with our best wishes to all for every successful endeavor in the future! May the New Year, and the new decade, be prosperous and happy for all!

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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