Ossipee — November 4, 2004 — Selectman Harry Merrow is proposing a town beach on Ossipee Lake.
Merrow has been working with the director of the N.H. Department of Parks and Recreation to lease a portion of the state land at Long Sands to have as a beach for the people of Ossipee.
He presented plans for the beach to selectmen at their meeting Monday night. He said he hopes to put an item on the warrant of the 2005 town meeting to bring the issue before the voters.
“I would really like to know if this is going to be possible before town meeting,” Merrow said.
Long Sands was bought by the state in the late 1960s, and is designated in official documents as Ossipee Lake State Park. It extends from the edge Ossipee Lake, with more than 9,000 of frontage on the lake, to Route 25. On the opposite side of Route 25 is the Heath Pond Bog Natural Area.
Though many boaters on the lake flock to Long Sands each summer, there is currently no public state or town beach on the lake that is accessible by land. The town owns land that is accessible by a walkway further east on the shoreline of lake. But there is no place to swim at that location because of the narrowness of the land at that point.
In the spring of this year, Merrow said, the board of selectmen authorized him to negotiate with the state to get a beach on Ossipee Lake.
In turning a section of that land into a public beach, Merrow said, the town would be following the intent of the state when it bought the land from Walter White and Robert Sawyer.
White’s son, Richard White, said he remembers his father and Sawyer bought the land in the 1940s. It included both Long Sands and the Heath Pond Bog. They had plans to harvest the peat from the bog and to develop the land along the lake, which was known then as Lone Pine, for one exceptional pine tree that still distinguishes that section of shoreline. But the state was interested in preserving the bog, and bought the parcel from White and Sawyer.
“The intent was, and there was money in the budget, to develop Long Sands [as a public beach], to take the day activity out of West Ossipee,” White said, referring to White Lake State Park, the operation of which is similar to what had been planned at Ossipee Lake. “But before the state got around to developing it, the money got diverted to another project.”
Merrow’s plan calls for only a small section, 600 feet of the 9,600-foot stretch of Long Sands, to be leased for the town beach. That land would be marked off by swim lines, and no boats would be allowed in that area. He has spoken to Ossipee Police Chief Rick Morgan, and said, “He doesn’t think it will be a problem patrolling it.”
The town does own a town beach on Duncan Lake, and Merrow said he does not believe the town should get rid of that beach, but that some of the recreation department activities could be moved from that lake to the new beach. Merrow does not expect the work to cost the town very much money to create and operate the beach. He is hoping to get a $1 lease on the land from the state. At this point, he said the town could get a maximum lease of 15 years, with a review at five-year intervals.
He said the town highway department could do much of the work to put in a parking lot and build a road and trail over part of the property. The path from Route 25 to the beach would cross through a wetland, and so a boardwalk, like the one at Constitution Park, would have to be built. Merrow said he believes donations and grant funding could be found to build the walkway. In addition there would be a small expense for portable toilets to be set up at the site. Merrow also suggested that some fee could be charged for use of the beach, particularly for people who do not live in town.
“I’d like to think we could recover a good portion of the cost,” he said. Since it is on state-owned land, Merrow said use of the beach could not be limited to townspeople.
Merrow said he waited until after the election was over before announcing the plan, because he didn’t want people to think he was playing politics. “I think the town should have a beach. I’ve always thought that,” he said.
And he believes his thoughts on the matter are in line with those of the people of Ossipee. Since he began looking into the possibility, he said, “I’ve not yet talked to a person in town who is against it.”
Merrow also sees the idea as a win-win situation for the people of Ossipee and those who seek to protect the lake’s resources as use of it continues to grow. As it currently stands, the area of Long Sands is busy all the time with boaters on the lake. Merrow and others have noted that there are no toilet facilities at Long Sands with boaters staying for long periods of time, there is a problem with people urinating in the water and defecating in the bushes, as well as problems with trash. With properly run facilities at a town beach, he said, at least that section of the beach would be kept in better shape than it is.
“It’s got to be better than it is now,” he said. “The conservationists should be happy. We would be alleviating boat traffic and controlling it.”
Merrow said there is some concern that there is a rare flower located on the section of shoreline. But he is not sure the flower still exists at that location, and does not believe it would be further threatened by these plans.
Selectman Joe Chromy thanked Merrow for his work. “Good job Harry. That’s excellent,” he said. “We’ve been asked about this beach situation for many years.”
Selectman Peter Olkkola asked if the state would be interested in leasing the whole length of the beach to the town.
“I don’t think you’d want it,” Merrow replied. “There’s no way in the world we could keep people off the beach.”
Selectmen voted unanimously to proceed with the work to negotiate and plan for the town beach.