Voters Approve Tentative Plan for Beach; Nearby Residents, Conservationists Raise Concerns

Ossipee — March 17, 2005 — Voters at the annual town meeting gave selectmen the go ahead to pursue a town beach on Ossipee Lake.

Selectman Harry Merrow proposed an article for $100 to lease the land for a beach from the state of New Hampshire and another article for $20,000 to be spent on construction of access and facilities there. If the project does not go ahead the money will not be spent.

“For years I have felt the town needs a beach on Ossipee Lake. People will tell you we have a beach but we really don’t,” he said referring to the section of shorefront accessed through Constitution Park.

So, he said, he looked for a suitable spot for a town beach and then approached the N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development.

He said he plans to meet with townspeople, including abutters to the proposed beach, before work is done to create the town beach. He also plans to address any concerns the state has about natural and historic resources at the proposed location.

“Everything has to get done properly or I will not support it,” Merrow said.

He emphasized that he believes the proposal will not negatively affect the nearby homeowners at Long Sands. The entrance will be from Route 25, he said, so there will be no new traffic on Long Sands Road. There will be a buffer zone between the development and the beach so it would be difficult for people to access the beach from that road.

Merrow said he is proposing a 600 foot section of beach, out of a state-owned 3,600 feet of shoreline.

A number of people spoke against the proposal, including several property owners at Long Sands.

Bob MacDonald said it makes sense for the town to have a beach on Ossipee Lake, but said the plan is too uncertain at this point for people to support it with a vote.

He also said he spoke to DRED Commissioner Sean O’Kane, who told him he does not support a town beach at this point in time. MacDonald stated concerns about the environment and about property owners’ rights. “People park on our property and walk through the woods [now],” he said, to get to the beach.

Blair Folts, executive director of Green Mountain Conservation Group, said the location is a unique site where a number of rare plant species come together, and should be protected. She said she is hoping to work with Merrow to find another site on the lake for a town beach.

Merrow said O’Kane will only support the beach if the town can meet some requirements for protecting resources there. He also said, “I suspect if you didn’t already have a beach you wouldn’t be out here talking about it.”

Another Long Sands resident suggested that the beach be moved further west, away from the development and closer to the Long Pine section of the shoreline, where the beach is wider. Merrow said he does not want to limit the exact location at this point, because natural and historic resources, as well as other factors, may limit the location. Setting too many limits at the beginning, he said, “might kill it before it starts.”

Rick Cogswell said, “I believe all the fears regarding environmental impact can be reasonably covered and have already been reasonably covered at Constitution Park. I do believe we can get approval for this.”

Peter Lievi said he was concerned that the beach would be open to the general public and would cost the town money.

Merrow said it would be a state beach, and so would have to be open to the general public. But he said the town could sell day permits and seasonal stickers for use of the beach, and said, “I would expect the beach to be self-funded.”

Rick Morgan said he supports the project. “There isn’t a place where an Ossipee resident could stick his toe in Ossipee Lake. It’s wrong.” He also said the people speaking against the proposal already own waterfront property, and added, “I frankly don’t care about spotted turtles and flowers. If you have a $15,000 boat, you can get there now. You can’t get there on foot. It’s wrong.”

While a member of the conservation commission said he does care about spotted turtles and flowers, he said he too would support a town beach if concerns about natural resources can be addressed. The articles passed with a strong majority vote.

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