FRANKLIN — Mill City Park, the private/public partnership that wants to build on the Winnipesaukee River a first-of-its kind “community whitewater and outdoor park” in New England, is reflecting on an eventful 2019 that recently saw it receive the Project of the Year award from the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The award was presented to representatives of MCP and the city of Franklin last week during NNECAPA’s annual conference held at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods.

In June, the New Hampshire Planners Association also named MCP its Project of the Year.

Marty Parichand, MCP’s executive director, said the regional planners’ award was unexpected but very appreciated.

The owner of Outdoor New England, a paddlesport retailer and whitewater outfitter on Central Avenue, Parichand said construction of the MCP “gateway,” stadium seating at the city’s Trestle View Park, could begin sometime late next summer or early fall.

He said this past August, the MCP filed shore land and wetland permits for Trestle View Park and two other “in-water” elements above it.

Those three things cumulatively cost an estimated $2.5 million, said Parichand, adding that they can be built separately, with the Trestle View Park piece being first.

While Gov. Chris Sununu’s promise of a one-time $1.5 million grant for the MCP failed to materialize in the compromise 2020/21 budget that was ultimately passed, Parichand said the project did get nearly $1 million from other sources.

In June, the MCP was awarded $500,000 in tax credits from the NH Community Development Finance Authority while in October, the Franklin City Council voted to amend the municipal Franklin Falls Mixed Use Tax Increment Financing District, specifically to increase its cost from $1 million to $1.4 million, with the extra $400,000 being devoted to “construction of whitewater features.”

Whitewater parks, according to the outdoor recreation industry, attract not only the people who use them, said Parichand, but spectators who watch.

The bottom line is that MCP could be “a large economic stimulus for the area,” not just Franklin, said Parichand, adding that the Project of the Year award from NNECAPA helps promote the park.

But MCP is bigger than just building a waterpark, said Parichand. It’s about re-connecting the people of Franklin to Winnipesaukee, and about re-creating a sense of pride in the city, he said.