New Hampshire’s smallest city has big plans.
Once a thriving mill town, City Manager Judie Milner is hoping a big new project will help revitalize Franklin.
“I’m hoping that we will have a vibrant downtown as a result of this park, and more restaurants coming in, some storefronts filled up, people actually downtown, enjoying the downtown and enjoying the amenities that are there … just having excitement for the downtown and life after five o’clock at night,” she says.
Mill City Park, coupled with an innovative and unique white water rafting park, will bring in spectators and guests, hopefully stimulating the town’s economy, including attracting new restaurants, shops, tourism and infrastructure.
The entire project is a public and private partnership with ONE Outdoor Adventures. Owner and founder Marty Parichand is directing the Mill City Park nonprofit, reporting to a board of directors, which includes Milner and Franklin’s economic director.
“I would say that’s probably our biggest success, is that we all really do understand that by working together we get more, we’re able to achieve more, and that we can achieve more than we think when we work together,” says Parichand.
The land-based part of the park broke ground several weeks ago, and will likely be open in time for the start of summer. This will include basic infrastructure amenities, a parking lot, graded trails and river outlook points. They will break ground for the first white water feature on July 12, and it will open for the most adventurous park-goers by mid-September. Two additional white water features will open during the summer of 2022.
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the park isn’t a new series of trails or thrilling white water feature — there’s no burden on the taxpayers and residents of Franklin. It’s funded through sources such as the TAP grant and the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, tax credits for water park portion and other sources.
Community gardens, water play areas, a parkour park, an amphitheater and timber-frame pavilion, climbing wall and trails are just some of the attractions Mill City Park will offer. However, the star of the show is the Whitewater Park. The development plans state that this aspect has the potential to reimagine and revitalize Franklin by promoting development and redevelopment, attracting businesses, enabling entrepreneurs, and increasing the attractiveness of the city to both residents and visitors.
The renovations will also make the Winnipesaukee River navigable for all 365 days of the year, which is not currently the case.
Sports, such as climbing, mountain biking and paddling, are activities people typically enjoy while on vacation, so having them right in downtown Franklin will potentially attract these adventurers. Parichand also hopes this will inspire local kids to pursue and consider outdoor sports.
“We’re giving people a low-cost way to get outside with their kids and their friends, especially right after COVID — what better thing to do than that?” says Parichand.
Check out the park’s master plan here.