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Group behind New England's first whitewater park adds polar plunge to New Year's Day celebration

Union Leader, John Koziol, 12/25/23


Rand Currier poses with one of his whitewater kayaks at his Franklin home on Dec. 14. Recently, Currier donated stock worth $10,000 to the nonprofit group developing Mill City Park, the first whitewater park in New England. John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent

FRANKLIN — The nonprofit group behind developing New England’s first whitewater park has added a polar plunge to its annual New Year’s romp on the Winnipesaukee River and also figured out a new way to take in a certain kind of donation.


First Day Franklin will take place Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the municipal Trestle View Park in the downtown and begin with the traditional running of the frigid Winnipesaukee rapids by what are expected to be hundreds of kayakers and other paddlers.


The paddlers, who will put into the Winnipesaukee on Cross Mill Road, will make their way down the river to Mill City Park, which is immediately adjacent to Trestle View Park, which is where spectators will be awaiting their arrival.


At noon, Marty Parichand — and any and all brave souls who want to join him — will jump into the Winnipesaukee at Mill City Park, as part of the Mill City Park at Franklin Falls’ inaugural New Year’s Day Polar Plunge fundraiser.


“It’s plenty deep” where the polar plunge will take place, Parichand said recently during an interview at his business, Outdoor New England, which outfits kayakers of all abilities.


Parichand is the executive director of Mill City Park at Franklin Falls, which is a nonprofit whose five-member board of directors includes two representatives of the city of Franklin; he is also one of the driving forces behind harnessing the Winnipesaukee for recreation.


Once the power behind paper mills in Franklin, the Winnipesaukee flows into Franklin, bringing with it smiles from whitewater kayakers and city leaders alike.


For each kayaker who comes to Franklin to navigate the Winnipesaukee anytime of the year for free, it is estimated that up to 10 people will come to watch him or her, and, hopefully, to also spend money at the growing number of Franklin businesses that have sprung up since the Mill City Park effort started.


Parichand said Eric Chinburg, who is transforming the former Stevens Mills site on the Winnipesaukee into 157 rental-housing units and commercial space at a cost of $32 million, recently conducted a survey that found the seven restaurants, brew pubs and eateries that have opened in the downtown since 2015 did so because of Mill City Park.


The Park has a 13.3-acre “in water component,” the first phase of which wrapped up last year with the opening of a standing wave and amphitheater and of a portion of a pedestrian trail which goes beneath the Central Street Bridge.


Phase II, which is expected to cost $1.3 million, $500,000 of which the MCP at Franklin Falls is currently seeking in the form of a federal grant, said Parichand, would be based around a surfing wave and the completion of the pedestrian trail.


At the far eastern end of MCP, there is a plan under Phase III to install a feature for beginning boaters/boogey boarders that would cost $1.2 million.


Separate from, but part of the larger vision for Mill City Park, Parichand said an on-land component of the park would have a bike track, parkour area, and rental cabins that would be located within a permanently-protected 18-acre conservation easement.


To date, Parichand said the Mill City Park at Franklin Falls group has been able to leverage an initial $250,000 worth of donations into $4.1 million in construction of Mill City Park.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Parichand said his non-profit took in the majority, some 60%, of its annual revenue, from overseeing that construction and by hosting signature fundraising events, including the very popular, wintertime Boat Bash Snow Crash! at the Veterans Memorial Recreation Area.


This year, the origin of the revenues has shifted to donations from individuals and businesses and to capital campaigns by Mill City Park at Franklin Falls, said Parichand.


He conceded that the group was challenged to make the switch and in particular, to deal with its first receipt of a donation of stock.


That donation, by Rand Currier, was valued at $10,000 when it was made in August, and is probably up 25% in value since then, he said, adding that it took almost two months for Mill City Park at Franklin Falls to figure out how to accept and deposit the stocks, which remain unconverted pending a decision on how to use them by the board of directors.


Currier, who was a co-founder, COO and senior vice president of Quincy, Mass.-based Granite Telecommunications, is an avid whitewater kayaker who during a Dec. 14 interview at his home above Webster Lake, purchased land in Franklin nearly a decade ago.


He explained he knew about the rapids coming into the downtown and also the fact that, on a good-rain day, he could find more than a half-dozen water courses with similar conditions nearby.


Although born and raised in Burlington, Mass., Currier considers his residency in Franklin, which officially began this past January 1, to be a homecoming.


The youngest of five sons of the late Eber and Trudy Currier, Currier, who said he is now “gently retired” from Granite Telecommunications, although he continues to travel around the world on its behalf – and to check out whitewater parks, like in Auckland, NZ, and Las Vegas, NV when on business – explained that his family has owned or owns businesses in Nashua, Merrimack and Milford.


All of his brothers reside in the Granite State, he said, and his being here was somewhat inevitable.


He is proud of Granite Telecommunications, which he said has 2,400 “teammates” at offices throughout the U.S.; generated $1.8 billion in revenues in 2022; and has neither outside investors nor debt, but does have a positive cash flow.


Currier said he chose to live in Franklin because the Winnipesaukee is “seven minutes from my home.”


That proximity “kind of sealed the deal for me,” he said, adding that after meeting Parichand, he was convinced of the benefits of supporting Mill City Park.


Asked about his stock donation, Currier said he’s donated stock many times before, calling the donations “a tax-efficient way of donating money.”


“I really want the whitewater park (in Franklin) to succeed,” he said, and toward that end, he is eyeing additional donations.


“I know Marty and I know one hundred percent of it is going to the whitewater park,” said Currier.


For information on how to make donations, including of stock, to Mill City Park at Franklin Falls and/or to find out more about the New Year’s Day Polar, go to millcitypark.com.


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