Does Ossipee Need Another Town Beach?

[Editorial]

Ossipee — October 11, 2005 — As debate over the proposal to create a new town beach on Ossipee Lake continues, members of Ossipee Lake Alliance and others have raised the question of whether the people of Ossipee need another town beach.

David Smith, executive director of Ossipee Lake Alliance, has written a letter to the state saying that there are ample beach-going opportunities in Ossipee, including the town beach at Duncan Lake, as well as public beaches in surrounding towns, like the one at White Lake State Park. The town of Ossipee should demonstrate a need before it creates a new beach on state land, Smith says.

White Lake and Duncan Lake, both shallower, smaller bodies of water, don’t offer the same water quality as Ossipee Lake. Beyond this, however, it seems that the decision about what Ossipee needs is best made by the people who live in Ossipee.

We cannot help but noting that many of the loudest opponents of a town beach already own property on the lake, and we must question whether it is right for the haves to tell the have nots what they need.

Arguably, no one needs a beach. Swimming in the summer does not satisfy any basic human need. That word is properly reserved for such things as food, shelter, clothing, etc. But we do think the people of Ossipee would benefit from the creation of a beach.

There is currently no public beach on the lake where townspeople can swim, though a great majority of the land around the lake has been developed for private homes, camps and businesses. We support the creation and use of public spaces. It seems more than reasonable that the town of Ossipee, which borders half of Ossipee Lake, should be able to have a public town beach there.

Is Long Sands the right location for that beach? Maybe not. The jury still seems to be out on that one, as the town and state are checking to see if there are unique natural and/or historic resources that would be destroyed by development.

Neither Ossipee Lake, nor the state land at Long Sands could be considered pristine. Some would argue that the land has already been so disturbed by the use of boaters, that there is nothing left to save.

We would not make that argument. There may be historic or cultural resources hidden in an archeological site beneath the sand. There may be rare plants or plant communities that would add to people’s understanding of the natural world. The land may be particularly ecologically sensitive, such that disturbance to it would negatively affect the ecology of the rest of the lake and properties around it. These things all need to be looked at before anything is done.

But the people on both sides of the debate have noted that Long Sands, currently accessible only by boat, is one of the most popular beaches on the lake. The land there is already being disturbed, to the point that there is some question as to whether rare plants that were found on state land years ago can still be found there.

If there are cultural and natural resources that should be protected, it also seems to follow that regardless of whether there is a town beach at Long Sands, the state should do something to something to protect those resources. Up to this point that does not seem to have happened.

Nor should it be necessary to divide the town and surrounding communities, or fulltime residents and those who choose to vacation here, or those who value recreation opportunities and those who value natural resources over this issue. These are not goals and positions that must end up in conflict. We believe that different points of view enrich our communities and a compromise that benefits all is possible.

If it turns out that Long Sands is the wrong place for a public beach, we think a public beach at another location should be pursued.

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