Sanborn — The Lakes Region 2015 year-end residential report

MEREDITH — We ended 2015 on a positive note, with a total of 92 residential homes selling in December in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered by this report. That number is up from the 83 sales posted in December of 2014. The average sales price came in at $377,104, thanks to strong waterfront activity in Moultonborough and Gilford.

Thankfully, 2015 was another pretty good year with a total of 1,102 residential home sales. That's up from the 989 residential sales in 2014 and the 1,041 sales in 2013. The average sales price for 2015 came in at $343,497, which is well above the $312,413 average in 2014. The median price point came in also a little higher at $225,000, compared to $205,500 last year.

What this all means is that there continues to be a slight shift toward more higher priced homes selling. In 2013, for example, 52.7 percent of the sales were under $200,000. In 2015, that percentage has dropped to 42.3 percent of the total sales. In 2013, 17 percent of the sales were over $400,000 and in 2015 that has risen to 19.7 percent. But the biggest jump was in the mid-range homes priced between $200,000 and $299,999, which went from 22 percent in 2013, to 27.3 percent in 2015. This kind of indicates, to me at least, that some people are feeling a little better about spending money and are buying vacations homes and perhaps trading up for larger homes in the area.

The total residential sales volume for the year was up considerably to $378.5 million, compared to $308.9 million in 2014 and $312.7 million in 2013. That's an 18.5 percent increase in dollar volume over last year and an 11 percent increase in the total number of sales. Not too bad!

The average time on market that it took to sell a home came in at 159 days, which was just two days longer than the 157 posted last year. This number is always misleadingly low as many homes that sold were listed numerous times but the previous days on market are not factored in.

Laconia once again posted the most residential home sales with 209 transactions, followed by Moultonborough with 144, Gilford with 139, Alton with 132 and Meredith with 105. Center Harbor had the fewest sales with 18. The towns with the highest sales average were Alton at $515,145, Moultonborough at $492,340, and Gilford at $485,488. These are the towns with the high percentage of waterfronts, so it makes sense that their average sales price would be through the roof.

The towns with the lowest average sales prices were Tilton at $156,004, Barnstead at $176,155 and Gilmanton at $180,861. There are lots of affordable homes in these towns in particular, but they can be found everywhere in the Lakes Region. And, just in case you are wondering, the highest sale for the year was at 24 Tranquility Lane in Alton. This 8,600 square foot residence was built in 1905 on a 3 acre lot with 342' of waterfront, a 1,600 square foot boat house, and spectacular views. It sold for $5.85 million. I just point this out in case you win the Power Ball at some point. You might want something similar...

P​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 1/14/16. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 677-7012.

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DuBois — Pondering the fate of a fire tower

Recently, Fran, David, Karen and I were on the summit of Mt. Osceola, attempting to find a herd path to two obscure and trail-less summits, Middle and West Osceola. We began our hike from the Kancamangus Highway on the Greeley Ponds Trail. From this trail we began our steep assent of East Osceola. At the summit we followed the ridge line, descending into a col and making the summit of Osceola around noon. Here we took a break, pausing to admire the views.

We sat on some very conveniently placed large concrete blocks. We assumed that these blocks had served as the foundation of a fire tower that once stood here. As we sat quietly, munching our energy bars, I pondered the fate of this site and a flood of questions rushed into my head: When were these fire towers built, why were they taken down and how many others existed? I remembered climbing several other mountains where I found the remains of towers: Bemis, Carr, Cherry, Iron, Hale, and, close to home, Mt. Major. I also knew there are fire towers still standing: Belknap, Red Hill, Carrigain, Cardigan, and Smarts Mountain. This brief respite stirred up my interest not only in this tower, but the others that had blanketed the state. My day dreaming ended when Fran reminded me that we needed to get moving if we wanted to summit Middle and West Osceola before dark.

Since this interlude on Osceola I have come to find out there were a total of 85 towers in New Hampshire, built between 1909 and 1940. Sixteen of these towers are still standing. Some are still active at selected times. They can be found in a variety of locations throughout the state, from Mt. Magalloway in Pittsburg to Federal Hill in Milford. This system of fire towers came about in the early twentieth century, because of a series of dry summers, which, with sparks from wood-burning, logging locomotives set huge fires destroying thousands of acres of forest. The NH Forestry Commission, established in 1881, combined forces with the Timberlands Owners Association, the Appalachian Mountain Club, National Forest Service and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to build and staff these fire lookout stations. Some of these early towers and cabins were built by woodsmen employed by the timber operators during the winter. They constructed their own cabins and towers, mostly of local materials. By 1929, the state was operating 29 stations. Many of the original structures were made of wood but in the 1920s, the state began to replace these with the steel structures we know today. The Hurricane of 1938 blew many of the towers into oblivion, but these were replaced and the state continued to use this tower system to control the potential of forest fires. During WW II, some of these towers were used for spotting enemy aircraft.

By 1948, with the decline of fire danger and the use of aircraft, a number of stations were closed. By the end of 1960, the National Forest Services closed all of its stations, with only the state retaining a few. There are now 16 stations still in service, 15 funded by the state and one on Red Hill operated by the Town of Moultonborough. Locally, one can have a "lookout" experience by hiking Red Hill or Belknap Mountain, which are periodically manned by a volunteer. If you want to paddle your canoe across Lake Winnipesaukee, you can visit the tower on Bear Island. You can also hike to other locations and find the remains of towers that there were taken down (Iron Mountain, Carr Mountain or Mount Bemis). Several other mountains in the state have towers still standing, such as Cardigan, Carrigain, Kearsarge South and Kearsarge North. A complete list of the towers can be found on the NH Department of Forest and Lands website.

After this brief interlude of pondering the fate of the Osceola fire tower, we resumed our hike. We found a well define herd path leading in the direction of the two isolated mountains and began the bushwhack through fairly open woods. We stumbled upon an old telephone line that was probably used for communication to the fire tower. We followed the line for a short distance, but it continued down the ridge, most likely to Tripoli Road. We set a different course which eventually took us to the summits of Middle and West Osceola. The view from West Osceola was stunning, with wispy clouds rolling over the summits of the nearby mountains. In the summer, Osceola Mountain is usually covered by swarms of hikers. It was interesting to think that so many of these people bypass these two mountains, not knowing they even exist. I would like to think that it will stay that way, as I relish the opportunities that trail-less summits have to offer: using a compass to navigate, solitude, alone-ness, and pure wilderness. After a few moments of congratulatory words to ourselves, we followed our "line" back to the main trail and eventually headed down the steep trail off Osceola and to our waiting vehicle. I looked forward to having a cup of hot coffee in Lincoln, before the drive home.

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E. Scott Cracraft - Revisiting the Birmingham jail

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday approaches, this writer decided to again re-read Dr. King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail." Dr. King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama and spent time in that city's jail. There, he wrote his famous letter.
In that letter, Dr. King did not address unrepentant racists and segregationists. He was not writing to the Alabama Ku Klux Klan or even the White Citizens' Councils (these were the "nice" Southerners — the "button down Klan" — who would have never personally burned a cross or lynched anyone but who fought integration with "economic" weapons). Nor did he address other civil rights activists to his right and left.
Instead, he addressed fellow clergymen, the "nice" white folks, who, while perhaps sympathetic to the cause, cautioned King and others to "go slow." It is probably prudent to go slow in many situations but, do the privileged have a right to tell the oppressed how to best deal with their oppression? Throughout his career, Dr. King was constantly challenging "nice," sympathetic white clergymen to preach racial and social justice from their own pulpits.
This writer likes to think of himself as one of the "nice white folks." But, as a white, male, middle class person, he enjoys a lot of privileges. But, being nice is relative. How many times has he dismissed a racial or sexist joke as "harmless." How many times has he refused to stand up when he saw something unfair? No one is totally innocent except the victims. Hannah Arehnt and other scholars of the Jewish Holocaust write about the role of innocent bystanders and even members of the oppressed group.
Dr. King was not a saint or a god. He was a human being. Yes, he probably had extramarital affairs (tapes of which F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover played for Mrs. King). Nor was he naïve. He was non-violent but he was not passive. He demanded justice; he did not "request" it. He was willing to use all non-violent means to obtain that justice. He planned his tactics carefully and made use of all non-violent tactics including nationwide publicity.
Unfortunately, the history of Dr. King has been greatly revised for public consumption. He was not a "take it" sort of guy and his outspokenness became serious threat to the ingrained "establishment." When he was only talking about integrating buses, he was probably not a threat to the overall American establishment. But, later in his career, he started talking about class distinctions as well as the gap between rich and poor. That has often been risky to do in America.
He also started criticizing the War in Vietnam which did not earn him points with what President Eisenhower publically called "the military-industrial complex." Others did not like his support of organized labor. It was, after all, during his support of a garbage workers' strike in Memphis that he was shot.
He knew he was a target and was putting himself at great risk. But, he was willing to take that risk. He talked about his vulnerability in his "Mountain Top" speech shortly before he was murdered.
Also, with the anniversary of his birth approaching, this writer also re-read (and re-watched) Dr. Kings "I Have a Dream" speech. It is not certain that his dream has been fully realized. Sure, we have civil rights legislation and case law that may have improved some things but do we not have a long way to go? We still judge people not by the content of their character but rather by the color of their skin (as well as their religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, etc).
Racism and other social injustices are still alive and well in America. Will we be "nice" or will we do the right thing?

(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford.)

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Nordic Tracks: Make Nordic new year resolutions

It's time to make your New Year resolutions — 2016 is here! Rather than making negative "I shall not" resolutions, I now adopt the "I will try to" style of resolutions. Over the years, I've found more success establishing new good habits rather than expunging old bad habits.
I'm working on my new positive resolutions. Some have to do with personal goals of organizing and down-sizing. Others have to do with learning new skills, staying active, socializing more and increasing my enjoyment of life and people. Many of these I can accomplish through cross-country skiing.


My 2016 Nordic New Year's Resolutions:
Exercise more frequently: In winter, if there's snow, that means more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Being outside in the woods, enjoying nature and getting a vigorous, low-impact workout is not only good for me, it's fun!

Improve balance, strength, and coordination: Cross-country skiing is a great way to work on all of these. Balance is the first thing I have to get right. Strength comes into play, as my muscles hold that balance and propel me forward. Precise timing and coordination of these movements makes the skis fly. No matter how long you've been skiing, you can always improve your technique.

Spend time with friends: Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are even more fun when you share them with friends and others. Plan your own outing or join a group tour like Jackson's Friday Gliders and Sliders, Bretton Wood's Thursday WRENegades group, or Great Glen Trails' Sunday Ski with Naturalist. For snowshoeing, take a friend on guided nature tours at Jackson, Great Glen Trails, Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring, Bretton Woods, and King Pine. Enjoy the trails together this new year.

Have more adventures: This year I want to try trails unknown. I can ski the National Forest ski trails like Beaver Brook, Hayes Copp, Pinkham Notch, and Zealand. Milan Hill State Park, north of Berlin, has groomed ski and snowshoe trails. At Franconia, Crawford, Effingham's Pine River, and Tamworth's Hemenway State Forests, there are ungroomed ski and snowshoe trails. Try something new and enjoy the adventure.

Share the love of Nordic skiing with others: Whether I'm teaching skiing, writing this column, or taking my two year old grandson skiing, my goal is for everyone to have fun cross-country skiing. I hope they'll discover that cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy winter while exercising.
Make this year better than the last. Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing with friends and family. Improve your technique and become a Nordic adventurer. Embrace winter as you glide along through the woods and fields, making your new year Nordic tracks.

Sally McMurdo is an avid cross-country skier who explores the winter woods of New England on skis and snowshoes. She is currently a cross-country ski instructor at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in Jackson, New Hampshire.

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Lakes Region Profiles – The heroes of the Lakes Region

By MARY O'NEIL

Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group

 

To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, ask not what the Lakes Region can do for you, ask what you can do for the Lakes Region. This area provides amazing water access, boating on numerous pristine lakes, hiking and views from breathtaking trails and mountains, four-season recreation, communities with unsurpassed amenities, towns with all the charm as those in books...the list goes on and on. For this reason, the principle behind Kennedy's words is met with substantial measures by residents and visitors alike. There is a palpable feeling of gratitude among the people who live and visit the Lakes Region. This feeling has translated into action. Here in the Lakes Region, we have conservation trusts, associations, committees, groups and individuals who contribute to preserving our abundant resources.

The Lakes Region Conservation Trust has been working to protect the area since 1979. It has conserved more than 23,000 acres in 133 properties. Miles of shoreline on Winnipesaukee, Squam, Newfound, and other waterbodies have benefitted from the trust's efforts. The LRCT has conserved 20 summits and more than 85 miles of hiking trails around the region. Some of the properties that are protected include the popular hikes up Red Hill in Moultonborough and Mount Percival and Morgan in the Holderness area. The LRCT's most extensive stewardship encompasses the buildings and more than 5,000 acres of Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area in the Ossipee Mountains. This unique property provides historical interest and hiking opportunities in spectacular surroundings. The LRCT has guides and maps available, including Winnipesaukee paddle maps, hiking maps for Castle in the Clouds, and Homestead Forest Trail maps. The Trust's successes would not have been possible without the support of members and volunteers. For more information on the LRCT, visit www.lrct.org.

The Lake Winnipesaukee Association devotes its time to protecting the Big Lake's water quality and resources. In 2015 alone, they collected more than 200 water samples to monitor the health of the lake; continued to work closely with the NHDES, NH LAKES, and seven groups from around Winnipesaukee to combat milfoil and other invasive species; co-sponsored educational presentations on management practices and other topics relative to conservation; conducted shorefront site evaluations to provide storm-water improvement recommendations for homeowners; and engaged more than 100 children and adults in their "Floating Classroom," where they measured water quality and temperature, collected phytoplankton, and learned about the lake. The LWA says, "Volunteers are lake heroes." To learn more about the LWA, go to www.winnipesaukee.org.

The Squam Lakes Conservation Society's goal is to safeguard the Squam Lake region as "a unique region of islands, shorefront, back lands and mountains, wherein a harmony between the natural environment and mankind is preserved forever." Currently, the society owns or holds easements to over 120 properties. This comprises 7,500 acres and 19 miles of shorefront. Every year it stewards additional properties. In October of 2015 with help from over 130 donors and community support, the Society and its conservation partners purchased Whitten Woods, in Ashland, from Bill and Nancy Dailey. The New England Forestry Foundation will manage the timber resources on the property, SLCS will have a conservation easement to protect the land, and Squam Lakes Association will have an easement for a public trail system. Those interested in participating as volunteers can choose the type of property they would like to monitor. A team of 3 or 4 will meet at the property with equipment for marking and measuring, and walk the parcel to see if it is in compliance with the terms of the deed. Learn more at www.squamlakes.com.

Since 1992, the New Hampshire Lakes Association has been "dedicated to protecting New Hampshire's lakes and  watersheds." Its stewardship includes close cooperation with local lake, pond, and watershed associations and individuals who are concerned with guarding our precious and valuable environment. The association utilizes a number of educational and proactive programs to preserve our land and waters. Through its Lake Host Program, NH LAKES has conducted more than 665,000 courtesy boat inspections and made over 1,400 "saves" by removing invasive plant or animal specimens that would have otherwise entered the lakes. The goal of its Lake Conservation Corps is to implement lake-friendly landscaping techniques that reduce the amount of runoff polluting the lakes. The Lake Explorer Quest Program awards families and individuals who explore three waterbodies by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard with an official Lake Explorer Quest patch. The Watershed Warrior program is a fun way for kids and families to learn how to take action to keep the lakes and watersheds healthy. NH LAKES is spearheaded by president Tom O'Brien, who brings more than 20 years of watershed and park management service experience to the cause.

The mission of Windy Waters Conservancy is to secure the future of the waters, boreal and wetland habitats of the Lake Waukewan area. Its efforts extent to Lake Winona, Bear Pond, Hawkins Pond, Otter Pond and others. Recently, the conservancy put 192 acres within the Waukewan watershed into conservation with the help of the LRCT. This parcel is part of Center Harbor's largest undeveloped forest and contains the area's only level peat bog. For information, contact Chuck Braxton, president of the conservancy and a real estate agent at Roche Realty Group in Meredith, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Other groups involved in protecting our resources include the Town of Gilford Conservation Commission, Moultonborough Conservation Commission and Milfoil Committee, New Hampshire Audubon Society, Lake Waukewan Watershed Protective Association, Appalachian Mountain Club and Society for the Protection of NH Forests.

In short, the conservation efforts in the Lakes Region are a force to be reckoned with. Members and volunteers give back to the area in abundance because they recognize our survival as a community depends on the preservation of our resources. Keep up the good work.

Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia, and can be reached at 366-6306. rocherealty.com

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