LOON LAKE - In the 1800s, the road between Merrills Corners and Duane was part of the Port Kent-Hopkinton turnpike. Stagecoaches used the road to transport people to Loon Lake, then by boat to the Loon Lake Hotel, which employed more than 600 people. U.S. presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley and Benjamin Harrison summered there, in a cottage known today as "The President."
Today this stretch, now known as Franklin County Route 26, is in rough shape. A nine-mile stretch in the middle, designated "limited maintenance," is riddled with hundreds of potholes, and the shoulders have eroded so much that most of it is effectively a one-lane road.
Paul Beyette, of Loon Lake, has been asking the county to repair the road for years and has started to gather signatures for a petition asking the entire road be repaired and then maintained fully.
A 'rough road' sign previews poor conditions on Franklin County Route 26.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
Beyette said he is working with the Loon Lake Association, plans to bring the issue up with the county Board of Leigislators and has already contacted county Legislator Earl LaVoie, of Malone.
The road is used by residents on their way to Malone for work, shopping or recreation, and use will probably increase now that the Lyme Timber lands around the road are open to public recreation. Beyette said that land has many outdoor recreation opportunities, and that the state plans to build a parking lot around Route 26 to allowing better fishing access to Grass Pond.
"How can plans for recreational access not include maintenance of the road?" Beyette said.
The entire road was gravel until the early 1970s, when then-state Sen. Ronald Stafford secured state money to pave it. (Stafford belonged to a hunting camp nearby.) A sub-base was put on the entire road, and the beginning and end of the road were paved later. The middle was not paved over, however, and is deteriorating, Beyette said.
"It makes no sense," Beyette said. "How do you get to each end if you can't use the middle?"
Beyette said no potholes have been filled on the road for the past two years.
Contact Nathan Brown at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.