The Riverwalk, a solid black line on the map, is a 1-mi. walk. A shorter route, the dotted line, bottom right on the map, is a .3-mi. walk from City Hall and the Historic Belknap Mill around — or through — Stewart Park and over the footbridge,
Stewart Park’s benches, trash receptacles, water fountain and the fencing along the river were all in need of repair or replacement. Invasive plantings thrived throughout the Laconia, N.H., park, and the streetlights had not worked for years.
Belknap Landscape Company Inc. (BLC) submitted and won a sealed bid for the Stewart Park restoration, winning the bid based on a comprehensive design supplied by its in-house landscape design team, full site work and construction capabilities.
Belknap is a Lakes Regions, N.H., landscape design-build firm that provides land care services to area residential, commercial and municipal clients throughout all four seasons. Specializing in solving problems in New Hampshire landscapes, the company maintains a focus on waterfront properties, be they residential, commercial or municipal.
The project was funded through tax increment financing (TIF). Tax revenues that accrue from the increase in assessed value generated by the city’s investment in new construction or renovation of area properties allows Laconia to identify TIF districts. Laconia then applies a portion of those future revenues to fund public improvements within it, like Belknap Landscape’s renovation of Stewart Park.
Rebuilt underground utilities and water supplies provide the safety of new lighting and protect the city’s plants and turf from drought. New 8-ft. (2.4 m) wide, multi-use walkways, comfortable, strategically placed seating, planting beds full of native plant selections, restored turf and pruned trees create a mid-town oasis for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike.
BLC Owner Hayden McLaughlin said, “We thoroughly enjoyed working with the parks and recreation department on the project, finding the city supportive and accommodating. This is an example of how we turned the city’s dreamscape into a landscape for all to enjoy.”
“It is exciting to be involved in the enhancement of downtown Laconia,” said Kevin Dunleavy, director of recreation and facilities, who provided oversight on the project along with the members of the TIF advisory board.
“With the talents and dedication of Belknap Landscape Company, the city was able to incorporate a new Riverwalk segment into Stewart Park, along with an overall upgrade of the entire park area. Stewart Park has undergone its own ’Extreme Makeover’.”
Stewart Park, flanked by Union Avenue and the Winnipesaukee River was once the site of stores and factories, followed by hosiery mills, according to local historian Mary Rose Boswell (a member of the State Historical Resources Council). The park was dedicated in 1973 and named after Paul Stewart, who chaired the Laconia Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which controls the city’s Urban Renewal projects.
Family owned since 1988, Belknap is a Business NH Magazine 2001 Business of the Year Award winner and 2010 New Hampshire Business Review Business Excellence Award winner for Landscape Construction. The company is an active member of the New Hampshire Landscape Association and the Lakes Region Chapter of the The Homebuilders and Remodelers Association of New Hampshire.
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