In the 1990’s, several major improvements were completed which significantly improved pedestrian safety in Weirs Beach. A new sidewalk was constructed on the East (Lake) side of Lakeside Avenue, along the fencing which separated the railroad tracks and boardwalk from the street. Whereas previously, visitors parking cars on the East side of Lakeside Avenue had to walk some distance in the street to reach the safety of a crosswalk, visitors could now walk safely along the new sidewalk to reach a crosswalk. At several corners, where Lakeside Avenue intersected with New Hampshire Avenue, Tower St, and Foster Avenue, new stone curbing provided handicap access. Finally, the sidewalk in front of the Half Moon (the building in the blue box at the bottom of every webpage on this site), which had been a conspicuously narrow sidewalk for the center of town, was widened by 3′, providing a comfortably broadened walking lane.
The former Laconia State School was located between Lake Winnisquam (background) and Lake Opechee (foreground) in Laconia
On May 14, 1998, the City of Laconia made a deal with the State of New Hampshire, whereby the Lakes Region Correction Facility’s (photo, above) inmate population could be expanded from a temporary 300 to a permanent 500. The prison, which opened in October of 1991, had previously been the Laconia State School for the Developmentally Disabled. Originally, it had been known as the Laconia State School for Feeble Minded Children. However, instead of increasing to a permanent 500 inmates, the inmate population was reduced to zero on June 30, 2009, when the prison was closed permanently as a budget cutting measure. It had proved very difficult for the State of NH to operate the prison efficiently due to the very poor condition of the buildings. As of May, 2012, the City of Laconia is attempting to purchase the nearly 300 acre property from the state for a reported $2.16 million.
Returning to the 1998 deal: As part of the deal, the state would pay for the installation of sidewalks along the state-owned Route 3 in Weirs Beach. Originally, sidewalks were to extend “along both sides of Route 3 in Weirs Beach, between Route 11B and Tower Street and Route 11B and its intersections with Route 3 and a point one-half mile south of the intersection.”
In June, 2007, the State Department of Transportation announced that the sidewalks would extend only “along the eastern side of Route 3, from the area of Warner Street down to Lucerne Avenue, before jumping to the west side of Route 11B up to White Oaks Road.”
Essentially, the project had been reduced to about 1/2 mile of new sidewalk, a quarter of the approximately 2 miles of sidewalks originally promised (1/2 mile of sidewalk on both sides of the street in both directions from the Route 3/Route 11B intersection). There was already a sidewalk on the eastern side of Route 3 beginning at Endicott Rock park and traversing the Aquadoctan stone bridge to the Alpenrose plaza, comprising about 25% of the 2/3 of a mile distance to be covered.
At meetings to discuss the sidewalk project, Weirs Beach community members acquiesced that constructing the sidewalk on only the east side of Route 3 might be sufficient, but strongly suggested that in exchange, the sidewalk should be extended 1 mile northward to Funspot, and ultimately, all the way to the junction of Route 3 with Scenic/Watson road. The notion of extending the sidewalk(s) southward on Route 3, a 1/2 mile down Weirs Boulevard, which had been part of the original state sidewalk plan, was a lower priority for those in attendance. However, it is the webmaster’s opinion that constructing a sidewalk along the West side of Weirs Boulevard, with its beautiful view of Paugus Bay, ultimately as far as Lake Street in Laconia, should be part of any long-term plans for sidewalks in Weirs Beach.
After costly archaeological excavations during the summer of 2007 to make sure the new sidewalks would not destroy possible remnants of past Abenaki Indian activity in the area, the sidewalks were constructed in the fall of 2007. They only extend down the East side of Route 3 from the new Cumberland Farms store down to the Weirs Beach sign. Two extremely short sections were constructed on the west side of Route 3 directly opposite the Weirs Beach sign.
According to a May 4, 2009 Citizen article, Laconia Public Works Director Paul Moynihan stated, “We didn’t get what we were promised…but in fairness to the state, I don’t think anybody in 1998 knew what a big deal it was to build that sidewalk with major drainage issues and archaeological sensitivity.
In 2017, the sidewalks on Lakeside Avenue receive significant upgrades when the Lakeside Avenue Project finally buries the utility wires from Route 3 to Foster Avenue. Removal of parking meters, utility poles, and fire hydrants gives the sidewalks additional walking space, although their actual width only changes slightly. (The meters are replaced with a few parking kiosks. The utility poles are replaced with much smaller LED streetlights. The fire hydrants are moved to the bumpouts, see below.) The sidewalks are recast in concrete instead of asphalt. Granite curbing is used everywhere. A brick accent zone is added to the curb edge of the Westerly sidewalk from Tower Street to Route 3. A small section of sidewalk is added on New Hampshire Avenue, in front of the NHVA headquarters. To increase pedestrian safety, eight bumpouts are added at four East-West crosswalk intersections – Tower Street (diagonally from the Half Moon Fun Center to the Weathervane), New Hampshire Avenue (diagonally from the Half Moon Pizza to the Boardwalk), at the stairs to the public docks (straight across from the NHVA 9th&11th regiment building), and at the stairs and ramp to the public beach (straight across from in-between private homes at #54 and #76 Lakeside Ave). Bumpouts greatly improve visibility for both drivers and pedestrians when entering the crosswalk. The bumpouts are controversial and receive some initial opposition, but are ultimately installed. For handicap accessibility, the sidewalk is brought level to the Half Moon Fun Center at its Tower Street corner. Also in 2017, the Half Moon adds handicap ramps to the Half Moon Gift Shop and to Cooks Candy Kitchen.