Franklin turns to river, renovations to rebuild economy

Whitewater activities aimed at bringing in whitewater athletes and tourists

WMUR | M. Cherry


FRANKLIN, N.H. — The city of Franklin once relied on rivers to power its economy, and modern businesses are harnessing the power of whitewater rapids once again.

Outdoor New England is changing the fabric of Franklin. Plans are underway to construct a park to attract whitewater athletes and create a steady flow of tourism.

"For every two people in the water, eight more people come to watch," said Marty Parichand, of Outdoor New England. "So, those spectators, those kids, those caregivers, they're going to be the primary users of Mill City Park."

Franklin officials said that when it's completed, one of Mill City Park's major highlights will be a wave for river surfers that will be ridable for up to 10 minutes. Organizers hope to begin building in-river features as early as next summer.

It's one of a number of efforts to revitalize the city. Todd Workman, of Perma City Life, has been working with other community members to use federal grants and tax credits to finance the purchase of once-dilapidated buildings and create affordable housing and new business space.

"We're creating niche stores, mom-and-pop organizations, things you can't find other than a place named Franklin," Workman said.

According to the state, New Hampshire recently turned a corner and is attracting more young professionals to live here than it did in previous years.

"On a town-by-town basis, it has to be done individually, and it really has to do with whatever those strengths are within that community," said Taylor Caswell, of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs.

Caswell said more communities should adopt a similar blueprint for self-sustainability.

"Let's use the same sort of approach that we use for tourism to attract the type of people we need to grow our workforce and grow our economy," he said. "That's a trigger point, I think, to make a significant difference in the trend lines of the demographics of those communities."