Gilford enlists Joe Kenney’s help in restoring scenic vista by park
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN (Mar 31, 2018)
GILFORD — When District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney offered to help Gilford selectmen connect with state officials on matters they wanted to address, Town Administrator Scott Dunn had an immediate response: Help us with our scenic overlook.
There is an area off Route 11, about a mile west of Ellacoya State Park, designated as a scenic vista. At one time, the overlook offered expansive views of the section of Lake Winnipesaukee known as The Broads, as well as the White Mountains beyond. On a clear day, Mount Washington was visible.
The overlook sits atop a steep slope, with Scenic Road running below. Trees growing on the slope have grown sufficiently to obscure the view.
Cutting or thinning the trees is an expense neither the town nor the state Department of Transportation wanted to take on but, more importantly, the trees sit on private property and the owners did not want to have them cut.
Last year, Gilford, through the Lakes Region Planning Commission, proposed to the Department of Transportation that building a tower at the overlook would provide the necessary elevation to restore the view. The request went to the Public-Private Partnership Oversight Commission, also known as P3, established by the New Hampshire Legislature to promote the sharing of resources.
Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan sent word on March 8 that, while the commission agreed that “the issue of overgrown scenic vistas should be addressed” and that “this effort will require public and private stakeholders to collaborate,” they did not accept the plan as a candidate for P3 assistance.
She noted that several state agencies already had planned to discuss overgrown scenic overlooks and that she would keep the planning commission apprised of the discussions.
Dunn asked Kenney to help convince Sheehan to support the tower.
“If it’s an issue to you, it’s an issue for me,” Kenney responded.
The rule, not the exception
Jeff Hayes, executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, said Gilford is not alone in trying to deal with overgrown scenic vistas.
“It’s fair to say that having overgrown vistas is more the rule than the exception,” he said. “A lot of scenic vistas have grown in, and with the transportation funding crisis, a lot of that work gets put off and doesn’t get done.”
He said the issue with Gilford’s scenic vista has been around for a while, but there haven’t been any funding sources to deal with it.
“So when the new commission came along, we thought it would be a good possibility.”
He said he suspects the P3 Commission rejected Gilford’s request based on its size and the lack of specificity.
“I think the P3 Commission is looking at big projects like the Hooksett rest area,” Hayes said. “This was a much smaller project, and there’s not a preferred solution right now. We could build a tower or look for easements from the adjacent property owners. I think that was part of their hesitation, that we didn’t have a preferred alternative. It was not really shovel-ready.”
Hayes said they are now waiting for the review by state agencies, but affirmed, “That section of road is at the top of our regional priorities for the 10-Year Highway Plan, and it’s something our Transportation Advisory Committee is pretty focused on. It’s different from road construction, but it’s connected to it. The site is also along the Winnipesaukee Scenic Byway, so it will continue to get our attention.”
Jeff Rose, commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said the Governor's Office is interested in identifying historic scenic overlooks that have become overgrown and evaluating the opportunities to re-establish them.
"It is something we are working on," Rose said, "in order to provide the pleasure of vistas to not just travelers but also tourists and artists and others with those places in their memories."
He said his department, along with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, Division of Travel and Tourism Development, are looking for ways to address the issue "that is thoughtful and inclusive of the public and respectful to private landowners."
The staff has met a few times over the last few months and Rose said that, while they are not on the cusp of having a way to execute a plan, they are hopeful of having a process in place within the next three to six months.
"We have to recognize who owns the land, the process and the permitting, and that's all very relevant, but we think we can find a handful of scenic vistas that are overgrown and restore them."
They would start with a couple of projects and include opportunities for public comment, he said. The process would bring in regional planning commissions, communities, and members of the public, and might bring in broader groups, such as the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
Executive Councilor Joe Kenney Explores Challenges with State Contracting and Nonprofits
New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits (4/15/2014)
State contracting, short time limits to fulfill contracts and overly burdensome requirements that result in nonprofits delivering mammoth reams of documents to the state was a topic of conversation between newly elected Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney and nonprofit leaders at this month’s Nonprofit Capital Exchange.
Kenney is the newest member of the Executive Council, having been elected in March to serve in the seat previously held by Executive Councilor Ray Burton who passed away recently. Kenney explained that the Executive Council is tasked with overseeing the spending of the state’s budget that is passed by the legislature. They are responsible for looking at the contracts before them and ensuring that the need for the spending is well thought out, if it creates jobs, and if it will achieve the goals set forth.
During the roundtable discussion, Councilor Kenny stressed his openness to learning more about ways the contracting process could be improved and about the role nonprofits play in community building and offered to host a discussion on contracts to talk about how to address the issues around state contracts.
Nonprofit leaders shared with Councilor Kenney their concern about a recent proposal by the state to remove from the contracts the ability for nonprofit organizations to ask for any budget line changes. “Like any contractor, you could unexpectedly save money in one line item and it makes sense to move those funds into another line item. This locks us into having no flexibility- which isn’t prudent. And just when you are making headway, you have to go through the whole process again,” stated one attendee.
Kenney shared that while he doesn’t think the proposal is the best approach because flexibility is needed, he believed that part of the motivation might be to ensure there is an open bidding process. He added that the Executive Council is mindful of the public’s perception of processes and the importance of transparency in bidding for contracts within the state.
The Nonprofit Capitol Exchange is a recurring monthly leadership series featuring leaders in public policy. It is organized by the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits and hosted by Sulloway & Hollis. Check our events page for upcoming dates and featured speakers.