FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Freedom — August 11, 2005 — Responding to the growing controversy over Ossipee’s proposed development of state-owned Ossipee Lake Natural Area as a beach, Ossipee Lake Alliance today announced its opposition to the plan while also offering to help the town find an alternate location on the lake.
In a letter to the town’s selectmen, the Alliance’s Board of Directors said the evidence about the preserve’s unique environment has been clear since 1999 when the state rejected the town’s previous proposal because of the wetlands and rare plants. State studies conducted since then support the logic of the state’s decision, the Alliance maintains, adding that the likely presence of historic artifacts gives the Natural Area state and federal protections.
“The state has previously offered to work with the town to find and fund another beach location, and we believe that is a promising path to pursue,” the Alliance letter states, adding that the organization will assist in the search if the town wants it to.
Despite the state’s previous rejection of a beach in 1999, Ossipee officials announced in November that they believed the state would lease land in the Natural Area so the town could build a parking lot and boardwalk to the lake. Voters subsequently authorized the selectmen to negotiate a lease for no more than $100 annually and to spend up to $20,000 to construct a beach.
Opposition to the plan was swift, however. In March, Freedom’s Board of Selectmen and the Effingham Conservation Commission both wrote letters to state officials, including the governor. State and local environmental and lake groups also began meeting with officials to express their objections.
After the state said that Ossipee would have to fund a series of environmental and archeological feasibility studies, town property owners began questioning the selectmen about the cost of the beach. State experts say the archeological work alone could cost Ossipee $200,000 and take years to complete. When the studies are finished, the state could still turn down the plan.
Ossipee has a number of designated town swimming areas including a beach on Duncan Lake that has bathrooms and a lifeguard. At this week’s selectmen’s meeting, town officials Peter Olkkola and Joe Skehan both said that the Duncan Lake beach is underutilized, raising questions about the town’s claims to the state that it needs more swimming areas.
In its letter today, the Alliance took issue with the selectmen for their criticisms of the state’s biologists and archeologists, saying the town’s statements were inaccurate and were “alienating environmental and preservation groups as well as those who know little about rare plants and artifacts but believe our unique natural resources deserve protection.”
In offering to work with the town to find another site, the Alliance pointed to milfoil prevention and control as an example of how the organization and the town have successfully worked together for the long-term benefit and protection of the lake.
The Alliance’s website profiles the history of Ossipee Lake Natural Area and the studies that have been conducted there since the 1970s. It’s at www.ossipeelake.org/longsands.