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How some businesses in NH’s tourism-reliant regions are coping with this summer’s rains

Lake Winnipesaukee.
Robert Garrova
Lake Winnipesaukee.

Businesses in the tourism-reliant Lakes and White Mountains regions say this summer’s heavy rains are putting a damper on their bottom lines, even if they have avoided the worst of the weather.

Steve Wilkie, operation manager for the New Hampshire Off-Highway Vehicle Association, has seen ATV trails damaged across the state, from recent storms in the north to flooding in the south. He said while the pandemic pushed people outdoors, this summer’s weather has pushed them back inside.

“Rentals are down, usage is down, registrations are down,” he said.

Kirk Beattie is the city manager of Laconia, in the heart of the Lakes Region. He said there has been a decrease in day-trippers.

“Good weather certainly benefits many of our businesses that are tourist driven,” he said

Callum Grant, who oversees the railroad attraction at the Clark's Bears amusement park in Lincoln, echoed Beattie’s sentiment. He said that he has seen overall attendance fall, but noted that motel bookings remained steady, indicating that short-term tourists are the ones staying home.

Related: NH's infrastructure is aging. How will it hold up with predictions of more flooding and extreme weather?

He and other business owners suspect foreboding forecasts are disproportionately scaring away visitors. Grant said that while Lincoln has avoided the brunt of this summer’s hazardous weather, he has fielded concerned phone calls from guests worrying about threats like torrential downpours and tornadoes.

“Generalized forecast for New Hampshire doesn't necessarily specifically tell the story up here,” he said. “We don't see a whole lot of the flooding impacts that some of the southern communities get.”

Torin Stegemeyer, owner of Wake Winni Water Sports in Wolfeboro, had to cancel reservations Sunday and Monday due to road closures. He says he’s seen a decrease in rentals, saying that customers seem more worried about the chance of inclement weather than previous years.

Related: NH climate assessment says state is getting warmer and wetter

However, the customers who have turned out have often been pleasantly surprised by their experiences, Stegemeyer said, pointing out the smaller crowds have improved boating conditions on the lake.

"You get more space and more openness on Winnipesaukee,” he said.

This weekend’s deluge has created more dangerous conditions on other waterways in the state, particularly rivers. Charyl Reardon, president of the White Mountain Attractions Association, advised visitors to be cautious of abnormally fierce river currents caused by the elevated water level.

“When we get high rains and the rivers are rushing, there's been movement of rocks and stuff like that,” she said. “So some of the underground is not going to be as secure as it was once before.”

The rain has helped some, particularly indoor retailers, who have reported an increase of foot traffic. Julie LoCascio, a sales associate at Lahout’s Ski Shop in Lincoln, said their sales numbers have been up across the board.

“If people can't go outside and enjoy the nice weather, then they're going to want to shop,” she said.

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