Selectmen Identify Spot for Ossipee Lake Beach, OLA Says It’s Wrong One

Ossipee — August 19, 2005 — After viewing Long Sands beach with officials from the town and state, Selectman Harry Merrow reported that the group had identified the location for the proposed town beach, and agreed on a course of action to look for rare plants there.

In his report, Merrow said, “Although this is the first step, the general feeling was that this would be a good doable project at a reasonable cost.”

Merrow asked the board of selectmen to release two payments of up to $4,000 to look for rare plants in the area to be disturbed by the project. After hearing Merrow’s report on the beach visit, selectmen voted unanimously to release the funds from the $20,000 raised at the annual town meeting for the beach project.

Potential Joint Effort

“The beach would be located “at the east end of the property, just beyond the 100 foot buffer,” Merrow said. “This will allow the best use of the property from access from Route 25 and cut the amount of covered walkway needed in half.” If the beach is built it would be a state beach, open to the general public.

In addition, Merrow said the state would consider working with the town to protect natural resources on the remainder of the state-owned land at Long Sands. Among the conclusions Merrow listed in the report, he said, “It was agreed that the town and the state would explore doing this as a joint project to protect and oversee the entire beach area. It was also felt that some grant funds may be available once the project was approved.”

The group visited the beach Wednesday, August 10. Allison McLean, director of the state Division of Parks and Recreation and Lionel Chute from the Natural Heritage Bureau were present, as were Representative Mark McConkey, Police Chief Rick Morgan, Planning Board Member Donna Sargent, and Conservation Commission Member Warren Walker.

Merrow wrote in his report, “A boat and land tour was made of the beach area to determine the best location of a possible beach. A tour was made of the walkway at Constitution Park to determine if a similar type walkway would be satisfactory for a walkway to the proposed beach area. A tour was made of the proposed parking area and walkway to the beach. Initial steps needed as well as a time frame and likely cost was discussed.”

Merrow said that Chute agreed that a covered walkway similar to the one at Constitution Park would be adequate for a walkway to the beach, and would create a minimum intrusion to the surrounding area.

The investigation of natural resources would only include the area where the beach would be located, a 25-foot wide area for a road or walkway, and the parking area. One study will have to be done in the spring and one in the fall. “To meet the fall schedule this would have to be done within two or three weeks and if the selectmen agree to release the money tonight (August 13) I will notify Mr. Chute who will advise of the availability of people to do this,” Merrow wrote.

Costs Questioned

Prior to the vote to release the money, Selectman Peter Olkkola asked what else the town will have to do and spend money on. The town also has to consider the costs of studying archeological resources on the site.

Merrow said, “We had some discussion on protecting the flowers.” He said that Chute said that if rare flowers were found in the path of the walkway, the walkway could be moved to go around it. But Merrow added, “If you’re not willing to do this, then you can’t go further.”

Olkkola said he would vote yes on the request, but added, “I’m going to watch very, very closely how many times they come in and we have to raise more money.”

David Smith of Ossipee Lake Alliance asked Olkkola why he approved spending after saying last week that he did not want to spend money until he knew the total cost.

Olkkola said, “This money has already been appropriated. At some point in time, I want to know exactly what it’s going to cost. I’m not going to sit here and be nickled and dimed.”

Merrow also responded to a comment in a letter from Smith. Smith indicated that selectmen would seek legislation if necessary to make the beach a reality.

“It was not the selectmen. It was me,” Merrow said. “And I have reconsidered. I will not seek legislation. I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Alliance Opposes Location

Although townspeople voted by a strong majority to support the project at the March Town Meeting, there has also been opposition to the proposed beach from people concerned about the effects of having a public beach in a sensitive natural area.

Ossipee Lake Alliance sent a letter to the selectmen last week that the group supports the concept of a town beach but believes Long Sands is the wrong place for it, due to the likely presence of wetlands and rare plants. The Alliance also said it would be willing to help the town search for another site.

In the letter, Smith wrote “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.”

Smith came to the meeting and had a number of questions for Merrow, including: Would people be notified of [state and town] meetings in the future? Has the town negotiated a lease for the property? What about the beach at Constitution Park?

Merrow said it is not necessary to post meetings with the state as long as only one selectman is involved. He said the lease would not be negotiated until the studies had been completed.

Selectmen said the beach at Constitution Park has been off limits for swimming at the recommendation of the Marine Patrol since shortly after the town opened it.

Warrant Article Clarified

Smith also questioned spending the money from the warrant article. Merrow said the article was revised at town meeting to encompass such purposes.

The article initially read” To see if the town will vote to appropriate the sum or $20,000 to be withdrawn from surplus to be spent at the discretion of the board of selectmen for construction to the land to establish the proposed Ossipee Lake Beach. Funds to be used only after a contract has been completed with the state, leasing a portion of the land for access to the beach to the town.”

The article was amended to say “for construction and/or studies to complete the investigations to establish the proposal Ossipee Lake Beach.”

Selectmen also noted in their correspondence a letter from Irene Garvey, a wetland scientist and environmental consultant who lives in Tuftonboro, in opposition to the proposed beach.

“This area has known and documented habitat for unique communities of plants and is a known archeological site. This simply is not the appropriate site for a town beach and I strongly object to any consideration of it being an appropriate site,” she wrote.

Merrow ended his comments on the project by reiterating a statement he made at last week’s meeting, “If anyone finds any major logical reason like a burial ground or campsites, you’re going to see me back away from that beach so fast that you won’t know what happened.”

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