PLYMOUTH — A group of concerned residents, state officials, and law enforcement met Saturday to come up with plans for the Livermore Falls area, a site of historical significance that has some of the most beautiful geology in the state.
About 50 people came to the "Friends of the Pemi: Livermore Falls Chapter" meeting on Saturday morning, and about 50 attended an earlier meeting last week, said Ken Evans, a member of the Plymouth Rotary, which is sponsoring the group, and co-chair of the friends group.
The group was formed and is meeting to come up with plans to protect the gorge and make it safer and more pleasurable for people to use. Local authorities say the falls have become a trouble spot.
In 2012, Holderness Police Chief Jake Pattridge told an earlier version of the committee that his town made 40 percent of their arrests in the summer months at the falls, mostly charging students from area schools with alcohol-related crimes.
And local police say at least 10 people have died at the falls in the past few decades. The last drowning occurred in 2006, but there have been several close calls, including an incident in July when five people were knocked out of their tubes while going over the rocky falls and had to be rescued.
"This group was first started two years ago by law enforcement because of the dangers and arrests occurring at the falls," Evans said. "One of our focuses is that the trouble we have at the falls won't go away."
At their two meetings, the group came to several conclusions and made plans for meetings ahead, but emerged with a general theme.
"If we make the falls area the way it should be, the crime will take care of itself," he said.
The falls area, which has borders in Plymouth, Campton and Holderness, is owned by the state. It is a popular area for swimming and sightseeing, and it has the historically important "Pumpkin Seed"
bridge, the remains of a bridge erected in 1886 that was closed in 1959. The falls was also the site of the state's first fish hatchery.
The friends group worked on coming up with ways of preserving the falls' recreational, historical and environmental qualities. In looking at each area of quality, Evans said, they determined strengths and weaknesses.
The group plans to come up with an action plan to submit to the state. Some have suggested the state make the area into a state park.
The strengths of the falls were agreed on by the group, he said, but all agreed the strengths should be better preserved with signage and fencing. Building a Visitor's Center was discussed.
"There's a phenomenal historical education to be had there, and we want to make it user-friendly without it being over-used," Evans said. "Safety and access are two of the biggest issues. There is no good access to the falls and no parking there now."
"One of the only weaknesses we have is people jumping off the bridge (into the falls and the water below) and hurting themselves, that has to stop, and we have to let people know it's not safe to be in the water near the falls," he said.