Plymouth State University students present recommendations for Gorham Paper Mill lagoon property
Proposals include brewery, outdoor recreation center, temporary lodging cabins, an indoor athletic facility and more
Plymouth State University (PSU) students recently presented their research findings and proposed seven recommendations for how 40 acres of wastewater lagoon property at the White Mountain Paper Company (WMPC) in Gorham, NH, might be developed, should the company execute its plan to decommission the lagoon and establish a closed-loop connection to a municipal treatment plant.
The 10 students enrolled in Special Topics in Law and Entrepreneurship, through a sponsored collaboration with the paper mill, presented their recommendations on Thursday, December 8, 2022, before WMPC majority owner Evan Behrens, PSU President Donald L. Birx, Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney, and other state and community representatives, including Gorham Town Manager Denise Vallee, Chuck Henderson from Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office, and Brian Bresnahan from Congresswomen Anne Kuster’s office.
“The students did an excellent job in identifying thoughtful and imaginative concepts and backing their proposals up with in-depth research and business plans, and we appreciate that the students took the initiative to understand what the paper mill has historically meant to the region, and then focused their ideas in a forward-looking manner that will facilitate growth and advancement,” said Behrens.
“We are thrilled with the results of this collaboration with PSU and hope to accomplish more together. In the days to come, we look forward to evaluating the students’ recommendations and engaging further on potential next steps. Ultimately, we are hopeful that in conjunction with the city of Berlin, the town of Gorham and the state, we will be successful in finding a sustainable plan for decommissioning the lagoons and be in a position to redevelop this land in a way that benefits the local community and New Hampshire’s North Country as a whole.”
The students proposed the following projects:
- The Solar Hive, by Eoin Hamell-Kelleher: The plan is to use the parcel to build a one-megawatt, four-acre solar farm, which would provide energy for the mill and the community, and revive the natural flora of the land with a field of beehives placed in and around the solar farm.
- The Gorham Sporting Emporium, by Austin Malool-Juneau: The plan is to build an outdoor outfitting store that would supply the surrounding Coos County residents with their sporting needs in a 15,000-square-foot showroom, along with a seven-lane, indoor shooting range.
- Picks & Kicks, by Anton Friberg and Jack Berrigan: The plan is to build an all-ages athletic facility that contains indoor basketball courts, pickleball courts, a turf soccer field and more.
- Industrial Motel, by Goldie L. Graulich: The plan is to build a 48,000-square-foot building dedicated to manufacturing, with six different vendor booths for lease, with the goal of attracting Canadian companies to incubate their businesses in the North Country. The remaining acreage would be landscaped for beautification and to serve as a buffer for nearby residents.
- White Mountain Adventure Center, by Elisabeth G. Russell: The plan is to build a recreation resort that will provide indoor activities like rock climbing and serve as a hub for nearby outdoor recreation such as fishing tours, guided hunting trips, hiking, cross country skiing and more.
- Cascade Cabins, by Tyrese James: The plan is to build 15 lodging cabins to be rented on a nightly and monthly basis, to fill a specialty housing niche to support the local tourism industry.
- The Brews & The Bees, by Grace K. Burns, Joseph D.B. Mitchell and Ethan R. Stuckless: The plan is to build a 2.5-barrel brewpub and farm-to-table restaurant and convert the remaining acreage into a pollinator garden and public permaculture park, with walking trails.
The presentations were held in the Ray Burton Open Laboratory space of the Lamson Library at Plymouth State University in Plymouth. Following a Q&A, Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney presented the students and their instructors, PSU Associate Professor of Business Law Chantalle Forgues, and PSU Instructor of Business Lisa Perras, with an official commendation from Governor Chris Sununu for their exemplary work.
Before the fall semester began, Forgues invited 10 students from various disciplines, including marketing, pre-law, finance, sociology and others, to participate in the semester-long course. The course is co-led by Perras, a North Country native, and falls under the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Cluster. In keeping with PSU’s pioneering Cluster Learning Model, the course draws upon the expertise of community partners and resources from other disciplines such as economics, accounting, land use and French-Canadian culture.
“The most rewarding part of this project was to have a real-world experience, when it comes to learning,” said student Grace Burns, who presented Thursday. “Traditional classroom learning, on its own, can get a bit dull, but PSU’s Cluster Learning Model makes learning interesting and engaging for students and prepares us better for our careers.”
Students began their research by visiting the paper mill facility and the nearby wastewater treatment lagoons, in the fall. Over the next three months, they assessed zoning regulations and area property values, studied the history of the region and the impact of the historic mill on the local economy and solicited comments on Facebook, surveyed residents with canvassing and held a public meeting outside the mill on Nov. 13.
Thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Land & Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the NH Preservation Alliance has secured funding to sponsor more planning studies across the state.
The Alliance will use its $60,000 award to distribute approximately 15 grants to nonprofits and municipalities for preliminary planning studies and re-use feasibility studies. These reports are useful tools for groups starting a preservation project or advancing to a new phase. (They are also required for any grant request to LCHIP of $25,000 or more.)
The process brings preservation professionals, architects and/or engineers together to inspect and document a structure’s construction, evolution and condition; make recommendations for repair and re-use; and provide cost estimates. The Alliance’s grant program has helped property owners and advocates create “road maps” for 104 community landmarks in 85 towns and cities to date.
The LCHIP Board of Directors announced the Preservation Alliance’s grant award on December 14, a list that included 10 projects that received a planning study grant in the past, and several others that received advice and cheerleading from Alliance staff. “The Preservation Alliance is proud to have been part of the project development process for many of the new LCHIP grant recipients and extends an invitation to new projects that are seeking funding and guidance for getting started and moving forward,” said Beverly Thomas, deputy director of the NH Preservation Alliance.
“This news is a great boost for communities across the state,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the Preservation Alliance. “LCHIP grants are matching investments that revive historic landmarks, help protect our sense of community and drive new economic activity.”
LCHIP grant recipients are required to match each dollar contributed by LCHIP with a minimum of one additional dollar, and to complete the funded projects according to the program’s rigorous standards. This year’s awards of $4.3 million will be matched by more than $15 million in funding from other public and private sources, infusing a total of more than $19 million into the state’s economy in direct project activity. Recipients will be expected to completed the funded work within two years. A list of previously completed LCHIP-funded projects can be found at www.LCHIP.org.