Merrow Says Plant Survey Results Inconclusive

Ossipee — November 24, 2005 — Selectman Harry Merrow released the state report on natural resources at Long Sands and said that at this time those results are inconclusive. They do not rule out the creation of a town beach on the land, but further study is needed, he said.

Selectmen accepted a report from the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau on the natural resources survey of the proposed town beach on Ossipee Lake. The 11-page report is available to read at town hall, or copies may be purchased at 25 cents per page.

Selectmen received the report Nov. 7, but Merrow said last week that he wanted to have time to review it before releasing it to the public. Merrow said he met with officials from the N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) to review the report and discuss its meaning.

“You can read it three or four times and not be sure what it means,” he said.

According to the report, Merrow said, the path of the proposed walkway is clear of any of the rare plants that surveyors were looking for.

“They think there’s something in the swamp but they couldn’t find it,” he said. “On the beach, there’s nothing. It’s all been trampled off.”

Along the edge of the beach, however, Merrow said, the survey did find some natural communities of plants that are rare in New Hampshire.

But Merrow said the results of the study are inconclusive. For instance a hairy hudsonia inland beach strand community has been found within the system. But while the hairy hudsonia, which has been documented as occurring within the proposed beach area, is rare within the state of New Hamphire, he said, it is not necessarily rare outside the state.

Merrow recommended that the town continue with its plan and do the second stage of the study in the spring. “It’s too premature right now to do anything,” he said.

He also said he believes the town has enough money for the project at the present time, and said it will probably take a couple years to complete the project.

He said it may be possible to fund the building of the proposed walkway from the parking area to the beach with grants.

As to other construction and operational costs to the town for the proposed beach, Merrow said he did not want to speculate, but he did not believe the cost would be as high has some people have suggested.

“There’s no way I’m using Ossipee money to develop a beach for the state,” he said. “Most of the stuff that you’re hearing is emotion.”

If the costs become higher than expected, he said, he might not support the project. “Would it be presented to the town? Sure. Would I recommend it? Maybe not,” he said.

Five Natural Communities

The survey was done by a Nature Conservancy ecologist from the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau on Sept. 13 and 21.

According to the report, the proposed beach is situated within a regionally rare sandy pond shore natural community system, which contains five natural communities, all of which are represented within the proposed beach. Natural communities are recurring assemblages of plants and animals found in particular physical environments.

Four of the five natural communities in the system are rare in New Hampshire: a Hudsonia inland beach strand community; a twig rush sandy turf pond shore community; a bulblet umbrella-sedge open sandy pond shore community; and a water lobelia aquatic sandy pond shore community. The fifth natural community, a sweet gale-speckled alder shrub thicket is less rare in New Hampshire.

Among the state endangered plants found within the proposed beach area are grassleaf goldenrod (found in six locations in New Hampshire), and hairy hudsonia.

The report suggests the loss of rare plants in the natural area in recent years due to human activity. Hairy hudsonia, usually found in full sun and sandy soil, and documented in the past at several locations on Long Sands, was located by the new survey only in one shady area.

The report states, “As noted by the Hotspot Report for the Ossipee Lake Natural Area (2003), ‘The fact that the remaining plants at this site are all around or beneath trees and shrubs suggests that trampling of the open sand areas has relegated the population to less suitable areas.'”

The parking lot area is in a hemlock-beech-oak-pine forest, a very common community in New Hampshire. The path of the boardwalk area travels along or near several peatland communities in what is known as a fen/bog system.

The peatland communities include: a highbush blueberry-mountain holly wooded fen; a winterberry-cinnamon fern wooded fen; a red maple-Sphagnum basin swamp and a black spruce-larch swamp, none of which are very rare. The survey will look for a rare olive bog moss in the spring, as well as looking at orchids along the path. A final report is planned to be completed by July 17.

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