Ossipee — June 14, 2007 — Town officials and local conservation activists are questioning the efficacy of N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development’s recent announcement of efforts to educate boaters about the use of Ossipee Lake Natural Area.On Memorial Day Weekend, two DRED employees were at the Boat Launch on Route 25 in Ossipee to talk to people putting in their boats about the state regulations for use of lands managed by DRED. Those rules include protection of plants and natural features, closing of beaches at night, prohibiting camping, building structures or fires, using grills, fireworks, and disposing of waste (see rules at the end of this story).
Ossipee Conservation Commission Chairman Elizabeth Gillette sent a letter June 1 to Philip Bryce, director of the Division of Forests and Lands for DRED, saying that the commission is pleased that the department has posted rules regarding use of the area, but adding “We share the concerns concerning the rules, their interpretation, and methods of enforcement expressed by David Smith of the Ossipee Lake Alliance in an email to you dated May 28, 2007.”
Following the announcement about DRED posting regulations for use of the beach, Smith wrote to Bryce saying he believes the regulations do not go far enough and asking whether items not listed as prohibited are therefore permitted.
Both Smith and Gillette questioned the seeming lack of plans for enforcement.
Gillette wrote, “Enforcement of the rules is key to success, as is development of a management plan to protect the remaining rare plants on the shoreline, stabilize and reverse degradation of rare and unique natural communities and protect historic resources from disturbance and vandalism.
“We respectfully ask that to aid in enforcement the area be patrolled several times during busy weekends — particularly during this initial season of posting so that people will become aware of DRED’s seriousness.”
Bryce said last week that educating boaters about existing rules is both a first step and a response to comments made in the past by the public, most recently at a state sponsored public forum on the use of the beach. He said there was a sense that people were not aware of breaking any rules, and would comply if they knew.
“Hopefully we can get people to follow that voluntarily,” he said.
No specific plans have been made for increased enforcement at this time. Bryce said this is a busy part of the season, with public lands opening for the summer and the fire season just ending. The situation could be reassessed once those programs are up and running.
There are also difficulties in enforcement due to the fact that Marine Patrol, a part of N.H. Fish and Game enforces laws on bodies of water and their priorities are not those of protecting the land. Bryce said the people at N.H. Marine Patrol are helpful, but there is only so much they can do.
“We’re hoping eventually the need for enforcement won’t be that great,” Bryce said.
Gillette also advocated for stronger regulations to protect plant and animal species, as well as more monitoring to determine if people’s use is causing any environmental problems there.
The state’s deed on the land specifies that it be used for educational and recreation purposes. But, Gillette wrote, “As you are also aware, the land is a very fragile ecological area that includes rare plant communities containing several species that are listed as endangered in New Hampshire. For recreation to occur in an ecologically sensitive area, it is reasonable to expect that the new rules should be more stringent than those of a typical shoreline.”
The conservation commission also recommends that DRED test the water downstream of the area before and after busy weekends to measure changes that may result from heavy visitation by people.
The state is in the process of developing a management plan, which Bryce said will take into consideration these factors. No date has been set for completion of the management plan, but he said it is a priority for his office.