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North Country

DOT Holds Meeting to Discuss State's Plan to Spend $2.8M on Road to Balsams Golf Course

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The department of transportation is holding a meeting this afternoon in Colebrook to discuss one of two projects that will significantly benefit the Balsams resort, even though businessman Les Otten doesn’t yet have the money he needs to resurrect the closed resort.

The state will spend about $3.6 million this summer, with about $2.8 million of that going to fix 1.8 miles of Golf Links Road. It goes from the shuttered hotel to the golf course, but it belongs to the state.

The 2 p.m. meeting at the town hall is to answer questions and hear comments, DOT says.

DOT wants to turn the road over the county and then have the county give it to the Balsams. That would make the resort responsible for future maintenance.

Coos County Commissioner Rick Samson says that’s a poor use of funds since there are many other roads that need work.

But helping the Balsams is important because if the resort reopens it would provide a huge economic boost to the North Country, says Jeff Rose, who heads up the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.

The second project is an $850,000 tunnel under the two-lane Route 26, which runs past the now-closed resort.

It will be 20 feet wide, about three times the width of the current tunnel, which is almost 40 years old and unsuitable for snowmobiles, ATVs or grooming machines.

Currently riders are often crossing the highway and the new tunnel will be much safer, says Chris Gamache, who heads up the state’s Bureau of Trails.

Chris Jensen for NHPR
Jeff Rose, the commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, has been a strong supporter of the Balsams redevelopment proposed by the adjacent Les Otten.

It will also benefit the Balsams. Its redevelopment plan calls for a new service road using the tunnel so Balsams’ vehicles can easily reach the ski slopes on the other side of Route 26 without crossing the highway.

The tunnel is being paid for with federal funds, says Gamache, but federal regulations and a looming deadline meant the money couldn’t be used for the maintenance of trails. However,  it was available for the DOT project.

Consequently the project won’t take any funds from the trails budget, he said.

The tunnel is part of a $4.3 million project that also includes paving about 1.6 miles of Route 26, a project DOT has been planned for several years due to problems with the pavement in the truck lane, a DOT official said.

Two years ago developer Les Otten announced plans to develop the resort but he has yet to obtain the necessary funding.

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