A Vision for Recreational Access in West Lebanon

It was during the Neighborhood Planning Process and conversations with our neighbors and other area residents that Lyme first began to realize the potential for the open space at River Park to become a catalyst for something special in the Upper Valley.  An early presentation board (at right) was the start of a broader vision for the role that the River Park location might play as an important connector piece for existing and planned recreational trails in West Lebanon and beyond.

River Park has a half mile of riverfront, and Lyme proposed public access and a riverfront park, which was the number one priority of neighbors who participated in our many planning sessions.  Now that all of the zoning and planning entitlements are in place, Lyme has sponsored a Landscape Design Competition in the summer of 2015 as the first step in generating specific ideas for how to make the most of this extraordinary site, especially with walking/biking trails that might connect to a broader network.

Given the site’s location on the Connecticut River below the Wilder Dam, Lyme has always felt that River Park is the best location for car-top boat access to the river, with manageable grades and protection from water currents afforded by the islands in the river.  This would allow recreational boaters and fishermen to enjoy this beautiful stretch of the Connecticut from the dam to Bellows Falls.  But equally exciting is the potential for River Park to become the keystone piece to connect the larger trail network already in place and to stimulate progress on the expansion of that trail network to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center to the north and the Mascoma River Greenway and Northern Rail Trail network to the south.  With the new Route 4 bridge in place by the end of 2015, there is even more potential to connect to the Vermont side of the Connecticut.

Since the early planning days, Lyme has reached out to other stakeholders and discovered broad support for this expanded recreational network.  We intend for River Park to become the catalyst for regional connectivity and expanded public/private partnerships.

To the north, the Wilder Dam, owned by TransCanada, is in a re-licensing process, a federal obligation that requires careful analysis of environmental and recreational improvements that the licensee must make in exchange for the right to use the public river.  Lyme has reached out to TransCanada and made overtures to incorporate our site in their long-term planning and linkage to the current portage site around the dam.  Across from the Wilder Dam on Route 10, the TransCanada property connects topublicly owned trail networks through “Boston Lot”, over Bald Hill and Mt. Lebanon, to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. See the Boston Lot map at right, or visit the Upper Valley Trails Alliance. The Lebanon Conservation Commission could play an important role in achieving this objective.

To the south, the City owns a parcel on Bridge Street that was formerly part of Westboro Yard, the balance of which is owned by the State of N.H. and in deteriorating condition.  There is only one property owner between this proposed park and River Park and Lyme has kept the owner and their tenants informed about the neighborhood planning process and the proposed developments on our site and will continue to do so.  The City and State have the potential to connect the Westboro Yards parcel to the Mascoma River Greenway, leading to the northern terminus of the Rail Trail by the Carter Community Center building. 

Lyme has encouraged the competing design firms in the Landscape Design Competition for River Park to think beyond our site boundaries as a way to stimulate ideas for a broader recreational amenity for area residents.  We hope all of the stakeholders will attend the Presentation Event at Wilder Center on Saturday, September 26, 2015 to learn more about the potential of River Park to make a meaningful contribution to better regional planning in West Lebanon.

A visioning board from early in the River Park Planning Process, illustrating connectivity opportunities with River Park.