Concord — August 20, 2007 — The New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) announced today that it will restrict public access to a large portion of the shoreline of Ossipee Lake Natural Area to allow “for the protection and restoration of rare and endangered plants and natural communities.”
The closure will begin on Friday August 24th and will remain in effect while a management plan for the property is written and implemented prior to the summer of 2008.
DRED said that approximately 1,500 feet of the shoreline will remain open for “passive recreation” in accordance with State rules. That area will begin 200 feet from the northeast property boundary of the Long Sands residential community and run southwest to the large white pine that gives the Natural Area property one of its traditional names, Lone Pine.
The property immediately behind the entire length of the shoreline will also be closed starting on the 24th. State personnel will post signs and enforce the restrictions, according to the announcement.
The move by the State comes three months after a public meeting at which DRED officials detailed the damage being caused by boaters using the Natural Area as a beach. The officials also outlined the State regulations and laws that guide the use of the property, and gave members of the public an opportunity to speak about how the Natural Area should be managed.
Area environmental and conservation organizations, including Ossipee Lake Alliance, Green Mountain Conservation Group, Long Sands Association and the Effingham and Ossipee Conservation Commissions, have pressed DRED for the past year to take the action that was announced today.
Ossipee Lake Alliance executive director David Smith called the move a positive first step toward developing the unique value of the property for the people of the State.
“The lake community wants the Natural Area developed for multiple purposes that include education and low impact recreation, but the first step has always been to stop the damage. DRED just made a huge step forward with this announcement.”
DRED officials say the Natural Area contains rare plants and natural communities and is the site of one of the oldest settlements in the region, containing artifacts between 500 and 10,000 years old.
At the same time, the Natural Area’s sandy, unregulated shoreline has been a magnet to boaters. Originally gathering in small numbers in the 1950s, the rafting community swelled to more than 3,000 people on a single day last year, with tents, beach chairs and portable grills brought to the site by boat. Pictures of latrines built by rafters in the wetlands have circulated among State officials this year, a situation one elected official described as “a minefield with used toilet paper.”
The State purchased the Natural Area property from land developers in 1969 for $320,000 but never developed a management plan for its use. Three different attempts by the Town of Ossipee to lease parts of the shoreline for a beach were aborted because of environmental concerns.
Last year, DRED executive Philip Bryce, director of the agency’s Division of Forests and Lands, called on DRED Commissioner George Bald to close the Natural Area shoreline, saying the property is “one of the State’s most valuable assets in terms of its natural and cultural resources.”
DRED said it will consult with members of the local community, lake users, conservation organizations, and others who are interested in the management of the Natural Area as it develops the management plan to be implemented next year.