Beach Plan Must Address Historic, Natural Resources

Ossipee — March 3, 2005 — While some people see the Lone Pine area of Ossipee Lake as a perfect location for a new town beach, others are concerned that creating a new recreational area there would threaten natural and historical resources in the area.

The proposal to create a town beach is on the warrant for the annual town meeting in Ossipee, which will be held next Wednesday, March 9, at Ossipee Town Hall.

Selectman Harry Merrow has drafted a proposal to lease 600 feet of shoreline at Long Sands from the state. The lease itself would be for a small fee, but Merrow has included $20,000 to begin the process of developing the land to create the beach and park. The proposal would include a parking lot along Route 25 and a boardwalk over wetlands to the beach.

The area, which includes 9,600 feet of shoreline is owned by the state, so the beach and recreational area would be a state park, and would be open to the general public.

Merrow has said that the proposed park is a good plan for the town because it provides a beach on Ossipee Lake and because it can provide better management of the land than what exists today.

The state acquired the land at Long Sands in the 1960s but never developed it into a state park as planned. According to Allison McLean, supervisor of park operations for the N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development, this is both because of the rare plant communities that were found in the area, and because of the cost of creating a state park. But in the last 40 years, use of Ossipee Lake and of the Long Sands area by boaters has increased significantly.

“There currently are conditions that are not desirable,” McLean said, referring to the large numbers of boaters who congregate along the shore in the summertime.

Among the problems are the lack of bathrooms for boaters who often spend the whole day in their boats, in the water or along the beach. Another problem is the effect the people using the area are having on the rare plant communities there when they go ashore.

“Anything’s got to be better than what’s currently going on,” McLean said. “Now there is no control, no management. People are doing whatever they want.”

State Archeologist Richard Boisvert said those who plan to develop the land “may not be aware there would need to be substantial investigations done.”

An archeological site has been recorded in the area during a survey in the early 1990s, and if the land is to be developed a more thorough archeological investigation would be needed first. “We don’t know the full depth and extent of the site,” Boisvert said.

“We are not for or against a project. It’s our responsibility to provide stewardship of the resources. At this point we have serious concern about stewardship of the resources,” he said.

When a project may affect historic or archeological resources, it is his job to evaluate what is there, what its significance is, and what needs to be done to protect it. But, he also said, depending on what the archeological survey finds, “It is entirely possible that the entire project should be moved to a different location.”

Long before Europeans arrived, Native Americans lived around Ossipee Lake. The site near the proposed park dates from 1,000 to 3,000 years ago. Other sites around the lake are even older.

Boisvert said, “In order for the town of Ossipee to proceed, they will have to fulfill all of the requirements for the state technical and regulatory review, including DRED’s Park and Land Management Team review.”

“Part of that review for DRED entails an evaluation for archeological sites. This information was supplied to Mr. Harry Merrow, a principal proponent of the project, by Commissioner O’Kane in a letter of January 28.”

He went on to say, “On the basis of the information available to me, it is clear that additional archeological survey and evaluation would be needed in advance of the development of a beach at the Ossipee Lake Natural Area in order to assure that there would be no adverse effect to any significant archeological resources.”

Boisvert could not give an estimate of the cost of the survey, but said the work would have to be contracted out to a company which specializes in such work. Nor could he say who would pay for the work, but he questioned whether the $20,000 in the warrant article would be enough to accomplish the task.

Since the project is on state land, Merrow said he believes the state should pay for the survey. But McLean said that since the project is being proposed by the town, “At this point the town would be responsible for that.”

She also cautioned that the planning for the project is still new, and said that she believes the idea can be a positive one for the town, as well as meeting guidelines for creating more swimming and beach opportunities, as recommended in the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

“The town of Ossipee has come to us with a proposal. The proposal is still in its infancy,” McLean said. “It’s definitely something we’re interested in. But we would need more information before a final decision can be made.”

The proposed park would not necessarily be a traditional state park like White Lake State Park, McLean said. Rather, its primary use would be as a municipal beach, and it would be managed by the town rather than the state.

Preventing rafting in the vicinity of the beach would help manage use by the boating population. “Without rafting, its use as a social area becomes a little less desirable,” she said.

“Commissioner O’Kane has said we are certainly interested in looking at a potential agreement,” she said, but issues like the natural and historic resources, as well as rafting and lack of bathrooms would have to be addressed for the proposal to be developed.

“It can only happen if it’s going to include management of the natural resources there and protection, along with the recreational resources,” she said. “I think it could be a good thing for the plants and the people. I truly think it’s a win-win situation.”

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