Ossipee Beaches Too Small, Not Underused, Merrow Says

Ossipee — September 22, 2005 — Responding to what he said were misleading statements in a news release by the Ossipee Lake Alliance, Selectman Harry Merrow on Monday said three of four town beaches are too small, and the town’s one larger beach gets plenty of use.

And Merrow said the release, critical of a town plan he has spearheaded to build a public beach on a state-owned lot on Ossipee Lake, suggested incorrectly that Ossipee would close its larger beach at Duncan Lake.

“Ossipee selectmen never said that they want to close Duncan Lake beach and move it to a new beach,” Merrow said. “No matter what happens with this beach, Duncan Lake will stay open.”

Alliance Director David Smith, in a Sept. 16 release, posted on the group’s website, www.ossipeelake.org, wrote that “Ossipee’s selectmen want to move their town beach from one location to another.”

“Turning a state-owned natural area into a town-managed public beach must be held to a higher needs standard than that,” Smith said in a statement critical of both the town’s plan and of state officials for considering its adoption.

Smith said the state, in working with Merrow, has ignored the reasons behind its 1999 rejection of a similar request by Ossipee to build a beach at the same Long Sands site on Ossipee Lake. And, he said, state officials are doing nothing to prevent boats from anchoring near the site and from using the beach-front that is said to hold protected plants and Indian relics.

The association called for a stop to state negotiations with the town. Smith’s release also suggested the town already has abundant public swimming on its many water bodies, and used that argument against the building of another beach on the town’s largest lake.

But Merrow says only Duncan Lake Beach is a viable family destination — the other town beaches are small and undesirable, and the state park on White Lake is overcrowded.

He and other town officials say Mill Pond Beach is a short strip of sand where the water drops off too deep, too fast; Covered Bridge Beach runs along a short stretch of the Bearcamp River off Route 25, also not right for families; White Pond has only a sandy patch near a boat launch; and White Lake State Park, Merrow, says, often ends up turning away beach-goers on busy weekends.

“I don’t think any of them want to swim at the covered bridge,” he said. “I suspect they can’t do an awful lot (at Mill Pond Beach) either.”

And in response to news reports cited by Smith in his release that quote one selectman as saying, “Very few people use it,” selectmen don’t agree that Duncan Lake is underused. “Three selectmen did not conclude that beach is not fully utilized,” Merrow said. “There were 60 people a day in the month of August. Duncan Lake is not underused.”

Due to its nearness to a channel, heavily trafficked by boats, swimming is not allowed at the beach area at Constitution Park. And Merrow said of the Bearcamp Recreation Area, listed at town hall as a town swimming area, “I’m not even sure we own it. The boy scouts have been using it.” He said the area is only accessible by a logging road.

The Alliance release listed only Duncan Lake and White Lake State Park by name. The lakeside homeowners group has publicly opposed Merrow and the town’s beach plan for months.

“They can put out what they want,” Merrow said. “There are a couple of things that are just not right.”

The town has contracted the Nature Conservancy to take an inventory of rare plants at the site. The two-part study is part of a wider state-mandated plan to design water access that will not harm the lot’s reportedly protected features. After the plant survey, selectmen may hire archaeologists to study the extent of ancient artifacts at the undeveloped site.

Information gleaned from the studies could be used to design parking and a special walkway over the lot’s swampy wetlands.

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