Beach at Long Sands Busy Again

Ossipee — August 10, 2006 — While talk of putting a town beach on Ossipee Lake has died down, complaints about the way boaters use the beach at Long Sands continue.

Ossipee selectmen discussed the use of the beach, which is currently accessible only by boat, at the board’s weekly meeting Monday afternoon. Selectman Harry Merrow said there are three times as many boats using the beach this year as there were last year.

“It’s just not right that the town can’t use it but everyone else can,” he said.

Main Street Program Director Millette said she visited Long Sands for the first time last weekend and was amazed by how many boats congregate there on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It was amazing. It was like a city. There were six or seven boats out all the way across the length of the beach,” Millette said.

In 2005, Merrow attempted to have the beach become a state park, to be operated by the town of Ossipee and to provide access to town residents to a beach on Ossipee Lake. The proposal received support from many town residents at the annual town meeting that year, but was fought by others who were concerned that creating a public beach at Long Sands would negatively affect rare plants and archeological resources at the site. Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group were among the organizations that questioned the location for a town beach.

Merrow maintained that those who are able to get to the beach by boat use the land without concern for those resources. The creation of a publicly accessible beach, under the maintenance of a municipal organization, like the town of Ossipee, would be better than the current situation, since no one is regulating the use of the beach today, he said.

Merrow backed away from his plan in February, after George Bald, former commissioner of the N.H. Department of Economic Development, was reappointed to that post. Bald had opposed putting a beach on Ossipee Lake in 1999.

Ossipee Lake Alliance has been working to raise awareness about the natural resources around the lake, and has expressed concerns about the growing use of Long Sands and other sites around the lake where people come together by boat to use the shallow shoreline.

When interviewed at the time Merrow withdrew his proposal for a town beach, Alliance president David Smith said that the Alliance would continue to pursue permanent protection of the area.

But if state and local conservationists are concerned about the natural resources at Long Sands, some local residents ask why no one is doing anything.

Jean Hanson said she wonders about the concerns the state has about saving rare plants along the busily used section of shoreline. “Are these rare plants still there? Does the state really think they should be protected?”

She said the beach is constantly being trampled in the summer, and that boaters come and stay all day, sometimes having bonfires and bringing gas grills, which they set up on the beach. Local residents often find trash floating up to the shore from people who leave their trash behind or dump it in the water.

Local resident George Eisener agreed with Merrow’s assessment of the growing use of the beach. He also said there are no bathroom facilities at Long Sands, and that toilet paper can be found throughout the woods.

“Every year there are more boats,” he said.

Selectman Harry Merrow said that N.H. Department of Environmental Services will test the water at the beach this week, following a busy weekend of use there. The test for coliform bacteria in water is an indicator that there may be human or animal waste and disease causing organisms in water. It is routinely used to check the safety of public beaches in the state. High levels of e. coli are a reason to shut down beaches to public use.

But since Long Sands is not a state maintained and operated beach, it is unclear what will happen if high levels of coliform are found.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do there. That’s their problem,” Merrow said.

Merrow also said he did not contact the state to test the water because he is trying to shut down the beach to public use.

“Last year I had reports from two or three people that they got sick there. That’s why I did it. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to close the beach because I’m not. I’m trying to open it.”

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