CONWAY — The selectmen are asking the state to make sure the Intervale Scenic Vista visitors’ center is open seven days a week after receiving complaints that people have stopped there only to find the center and its restroom facilities closed.
The lack of public facilities in North Conway have picked up more urgency in recent years since the COVID-19 pandemic brought a surge of visitors to town. While the New England Ski Museum has opened its handicap-accessible bathrooms thanks to help from the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce members, the town has made little headway on building its own facilities near Schouler Park.
Town Manager Tom Holmes said he’s still looking for grants, particularly through USDA Rural Development.
“There’s no short-term solution to this right now,” said Holmes.
Chairman David Weathers said a man recently asked him if they could approach Gov. Chris Sununu about having the state-run Intervale Scenic Vista be open seven days a week as opposed to five.
The visitor’s center is currently open Thursdays through Mondays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“He apparently even volunteered to do the cleaning if that was the problem,” said Weathers. “He personally had seen particularly elderly people stopping there, and they’ll get out with a walker or a wheelchair or something like that, go up, and the bathroom is closed.
Selectman Mary Carey Seavey and John Colbath chimed in that they had heard similar complaints, probably from the same person. Colbath said he also heard that school buses full of children had stopped at the vista only to find it closed.
Holmes said he’s spoken to Executive Councilor Joe Kenney (R-Wakefield) about it, and Kenney advised the town should write him, the governor and the N.H. Department of Transportation.
“So I would make a motion that we write said letter,” said Colbath. “And then we authorize the chairman to sign it outside of session on behalf of the selectmen requesting that those bathrooms be opened and maintained seven days per week.”
On a somewhat related topic, selectmen also voted to split the $14,000 cost of an engineering study with North Conway Water Precinct to see about obtaining a “sludge dryer” for the sewage treatment plant, which would cost several million dollars.
Holmes said American Rescue Funds could probably help pay for the dryer.
The sludge dryer would reduce the amount of treated human waste that goes into the landfill. Public Works Director Andrew Smith said the dryer would reduce the sludge volume going into landfill by 60 percent.
“The issue is that we’re approaching 1-to-1 sludge-to-trash, and our permit rules for 5-to-1 trash to sludge,” said Town Engineer Paul DegliAngeli, who explained that the Department of Public Works has to add fibrous material to the sludge so it’s solid enough to be put in the landfill.
Holmes put the issue more colorfully.
“They’re doing so much treatment for the sludge it’s overwhelming the trash, creating a landslide condition — well, a liquid condition,” said Holmes. “We’re building a cesspool, essentially, out of our landfill, and we need more solids and less liquids.”