Litchfield considers creating Merrimack River access siteBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
September 13. 2017 12:13AM
LITCHFIELD — Trying to promote the Merrimack River, a newly formed subcommittee is proposing conceptual plans to build an access point to the local waterway.
“We want to make this as visually appealing as possible,” Jayson Brennen of the River Access Subcommittee told members of the Litchfield Conservation Commission last week.
Seven sites were studied as possibly entryways into the river, and town-owned property at 296 Charles Bancroft Highway was selected as the best option, according to Brennen.
The subcommittee is recommending that a driveway be constructed down the side of the field on the southern portion of the property leading to the Merrimack River, as well as a parking area that would accommodate up to 10 vehicles.
“This is not meant for driving a boat down to the river — it is meant for carry-in only,” said Brennen.
The subcommittee was formed earlier this year after Brennen initiated a community needs survey that suggested, among other requests, better access to the river in Litchfield.
Under its proposal, a gravel driveway about 20-feet wide and 500-feet long would be constructed on the property.
The access point could be used for kayaks, canoes and other hand-carried boats, and no trees will need to be brought down in order for the driveway to be built, Brennen said.
The parcel at 296 Charles Bancroft Highway is a 13.6 acre piece of land, however the project would only use up to 1.5 acres, said Brennen.
The proposed driveway would extend from Route 3A to within about 250 feet of the river, according to the conceptual plan, which also includes a walking path that leads directly to the water.
A gate would be constructed near Route 3A that could be closed and locked at night to prevent entry, said Brennen. A fence should also be considered as part of the project, along with boulders to prevent individuals from accessing the nearby farmland, he added.
Subcommittee members have inquired with the U.S. Army Reserve about the federal reserve force possibly constructing the driveway as part of its training efforts. If that idea came to fruition, Brennen said the project could possibly be completed for less than $10,000.
If a contractor did the work, it could cost between $21,000 and $29,000, plus additional funds for optional items such as security cameras, if they are deemed necessary, according to planners.
At least one member of the Conservation Commission voiced opposition to the conceptual plans, saying local impact fees were used to purchase the $610,000 farmland at 296 Charles Bancroft Highway.
“I spent $610,000 to preserve farmland, not to build a damn boat launch,” said Thomas Levesque, board member.
He said the land is used by the McQuesten family farm, saying the driveway could be detrimental to its operations.
Subcommittee member Pete Psaledas said that local residents have been requesting access to the Merrimack River for about four decades, and many other properties are not feasible in town.
Ray Peeples of Litchfield said he supports the idea of developing a river accessway, but does not support using the parcel that is being suggested.
“The state should be providing this,” said Peeples, stressing other properties should be considered for the project.