Wadleigh State Park is an attractive beach on a beautiful lake, in a scenic town, and close to a major highway. So how come it loses money for the park system?
OK, from what I can see, it lost $6587 in 2009 but made $3904 in 2011. Those are the only figures available on the state website. That’s still a net loss. How come?
When I arrived in town, the park was easy enough to find. Signage is good, and at less than 2 miles from the interstate it’s easily accessible to a large audience. It’s in the town of North Sutton, which for over a hundred years has had a flourishing tourist industry, some of which remains today. There are some lovely inns and B&Bs in town, plus the Muster Ground Farm Museum just a mile or two away. It looks like a wonderful place to visit, it has charm and character, and the state park should only enhance that experience.
The web site says the park “offers swimming on beautiful Kezar Lake. Tall pine trees shade the picnic sites located adjacent to the beach, making it an ideal location for families and group outings. Amenities in the park include a bathhouse, picnic tables, and playing fields.” So how come the figures show only 220 visitors in 2009 and fewer than 800 in 2011?
Even though it was only April, several groups of people were recreating – fishing, boating, and just lounging in camp chairs on the beach. There were some cars parked at the head of the lake with a path leading to the beach. So I continued down the road a few hundred feet to the official entrance. From previous experience, I knew it would be closed, which it was. What I didn’t expect, was that it looked run down and practically abandoned! The parking lots were overgrown and looked they they have rarely been used. I parked my car outside the closed gate and followed the trail to the beach. In the woods were several picnic areas, all looking unused and forlorn.
Along the shore the path looked more well-used and promising. The picnic tables looked clean and in generally good repair. I walked from one end of the park to the other and discovered an important fact: the locals are using this park a lot. Gates at both ends were open and it was clear that’s where most of the foot traffic was coming from.
There was a bath house like the web site said but I never did find any playing fields. I did find a funny old stone fireplace, smelter, furnace or something a little ways into the woods that I thought was interesting but can’t imagine what if anything it has to do with the park.
Anyway, the lake was lovely and I think this would be a wonderful place to spend a summer day with the family. Obviously the locals think so too. Too bad nobody knows about it. It seems to me that the woods between the parking lots and beach and possibly even one whole parking lot would be a great place for camping. Conveniently, there’s even a general store a few hundred feet away in town. Once again, with a little imagination and some simple publicity I’d think this park could easily be transformed from a net loss to a source of revenue, becoming another productive member of the NH park system.
Note: I since learned that this park has been unstaffed for a few years, which explains the lack of revenue!