Merrow Recommends Pulling Plug on Natural Area Study

Ossipee — February 14, 2006 — In a written statement submitted at last night’s Ossipee Selectmen’s meeting, Harry Merrow recommended that the town cancel the second phase of the botanical study of Ossipee Lake Natural Area.

The study is one of a number of research projects the state says the town must pay for before it can consider whether a beach is feasible in the Natural Area.

Saying that good poker players know “there’s a time to hold ‘em and a time to fold ‘em,” Merrow said “now is the time to fold ‘em.” He said his recommendation was based on DRED Commissioner Sean O’Kane’s plan to leave the agency in the spring.

The Governor has asked O’Kane’s predecessor, George Bald, to return to the agency. In 1999, Bald supervised the state’s review of Ossipee’s previous beach proposal and concluded that a beach would be incompatible with the Natural Area’s fragile environment.

Referring to Bald, Merrow said “We don’t see eye to eye on the beach issue and I believe not much could be accomplished in pushing this in the immediate future.”

Last fall the town spent $1,000 on the first half of the botanical study, which was conducted by state biologists who found that the proposed beach area contains four types of rare natural communities, one of which is not known to exist elsewhere in the state. The site also contains a plant species that is endangered in the state.

Merrow, who has been skeptical of the State’s claims about rare plants and ancient artifacts in the Natural Area, called the findings “inconclusive” and said that while the natural communities and endangered plants might be rare in the state, “they may not be rare outside the state.”

In recommending that the town cancel the second phase of the study, Merrow made it clear he was not giving up on the beach idea. He said his understanding was that the remaining $19,000 in the town’s budget for beach-related activities would “remain in the account until needed sometime in the future.”

“Make no mistake this means the end of a hand, not the end of the game,” he said.

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