Sunday, September 02, 2007

Paper mills long gone, town in northern N. H. banks on prison, ATV park for economic revival

In northern New Hampshire. the town of Berlin once relied on paper mills, now long gone. "Plagued by high unemployment, vacant buildings and a recent string of fires, Berlin (pronounced BUR-lin) is trying to reinvent itself, betting that a new 1,280-bed federal prison and New England’s first all-terrain vehicle park will be the economic shot in the arm it desperately needs," Katie Zezima wites in The New York Times today.

State and federal prisons (Berlin's will be the latter) have become an important element in the rural economy, and ATV tourism is becoming more and more popular in mountainous areas. "But there is concern about the direction the city is taking. Berlin already has a state prison, and there is opposition to the federal prison," Zezima writes. "A more controversial but much smaller project is a proposal to build a 50-megawatt power plant that would run on wood chips on a mill site in downtown Berlin."

The ATV park will cover 7,500 acres and "is expected to hold about 136 miles of trail and numerous campgrounds when it is completed in the next five years. About 20 miles are open now," Zezima writes. The state bought the land from a timber company for $2.1 million and projects the park's annual revenue will be almost $700,000. “For the first time in years there’s hope,” said Mark Belanger, manager of the Berlin office of the New Hampshire Department of Employment, told the Times. (Read more)

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