Main Street Stories: Derry

Through our Extension work, we see community resilience despite economic loss and community separation. Derry looks ahead to engage community members to re-envision Hood Park as a vibrant gathering space for all ages and abilities and as a way to help revitalize their downtown.

Municipal staff in Derry are continuing to meet the needs of their community now, while looking to the future. Derry is working on crisis issues while continuing to pursue grant funding for future project. Last week, I virtually connected with Bev Donovan, Economic Development Director and Liz Robidoux, Planning and Economic Development Assistant, to provide guidance on a grant application to explore the revitalization of Hood Park, a former recreational gem located in Derry’s downtown.

In the past, Hood Park was well-loved and well-used by members of the community. Through our First Impressions downtown assessment program, visitors from Moultonborough identified Hood Park as an asset that could be revitalized and leveraged to improve the downtown. At the park, there are currently challenges with Hood Pond, including water quality issues and a dam that needs to be addressed.

Different groups and community members have a variety of ideas for the future fate of Hood Park. There is question of how the dam will be addressed - repairing the dam and using the pond for recreational purposes or breaching the dam and allowing the area to go back to its former stream state. There are many creative ideas including an art installation, connecting the Derry Rail Trail and creating an arboretum. The next step for the Town of Derry is to engage community members to share new ideas, review and discuss the options for Hood Park and create a cohesive vision for the future.

Innovation in Derry

At the same time, I learned of some of the innovations in Derry in response to the pandemic. The Town of Derry and Derry businesses have been creative in order to keep their businesses and community going. Here are a few examples:

  • The Town of Derry Partnered with Studio Lab, NH Center for Women and Enterprise, NH Small Business Development Center and local business owner Melanie Davis of The Grind Rail Trail Café to produce informational videos to help businesses navigate through the CARES Act.
  • In light of canceling all performances, Tupelo Music Hall is now selling family style meals as well as grocery items and supplies through delivery and pickup.
  • Revived Furniture and Home Decor is offering DIY craft kits available for curbside pickup that complement their craft classes on Facebook live.

While communities address immediate issues related to the pandemic, it is important to continue working on long term projects. “Eventually this pandemic will be over and we need something to look forward to”, said Liz Robidoux. Bev Donovan stressed the importance of continuing main street revitalization work. While there is uncertainty regarding how main street will look in the future, it is important to identify ways to help main street recovery and work toward that future.