Long Sands Association Presses State on Natural Area

Ossipee — August 6, 2007 — Firing a salvo at state officials, Long Sands Association president George Eisener has written a public letter to area newspapers saying New Hampshire landowners should think twice before selling property to the State agency DRED because of its track record with Ossipee Lake Natural Area.

Pointing to continued foot-dragging by the agency on a long-promised management plan to protect rare plants and prehistoric artifacts in the 400 acre site, Eisener said “no one should make the same mistake” the owners of the Natural Area did by entrusting their land to DRED. He called the agency’s management of the Natural Area “deplorable and beyond comprehension.”

Land developers sold the preserve to the State for $320,000 in 1969 with the agreement “it would not be used for other than education or recreation, meaning neither, one or the other, not both.” Eisener said that DRED has never had a management plan for the property and for 40 years has been an absentee landlord that has allowed boaters to destroy the fragile 9,600 ft. shoreline by turning it into a public beach.

Lake groups have counted as many as 3,500 people at the Natural Area on a single day and have sent DRED pictures of boaters cooking on gas grills and sunbathing under tents and on beach chairs surrounded by crumpled beer cans. Neighbors have reported camping, open fires and organized parties.

In 2003 DRED documented the loss of the many of the shoreline’s rare plant species from recreation and put the property on its list of “hot spots,” which are environmentally significant New Hampshire lands that are seriously threatened. Critics of the agency say DRED never acted on the report despite its call for an urgent protection and restoration plan.

“The congestion of boats, lack of sanitary facilities and a no trash collection policy puts the whole lake environment in jeopardy.” Eisner said.

Last August, officials from three of the agency’s departments wrote a joint memo to DRED Commissioner George Bald recommending that the property’s shoreline be closed to prevent further damage. The memo called the Natural Area “one of the State’s most valuable assets in terms of its natural and cultural resources.”

A year later, Eisener says, the shoreline remains open to boaters despite what he called personal assurances from Bald that the agency would act on the closure recommendation by this spring. Eisener says officials at Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group received similar assurances from Bald.

“Would you believe DRED says it has been working on a policy for the Natural Area on almost a daily basis and given it a high priority for over a year but is incapable to come up with a policy?” Eisener wrote in his letter.

Escalating Confrontations
Eisener’s letter is the latest in a series of confrontations over the Natural Area between DRED and lake and conservation organizations.

After DRED officials said they would hold a meeting in May to seek public input on “management options” for the site, Ossipee Lake Alliance executive director David Smith pointed to previous public hearings and testimony and said “DRED doesn’t need more input, it needs someone who can make a decision.”

In June, the chairman of the Effingham Conservation Commission suggested to DRED that it offer an easement on the property to The Nature Conservancy, which has successfully managed the Ossipee Pine Barrens and other environmentally significant properties in the region.

“An easement could ensure that [DRED’s] recurring failure and a slow bleeding of our natural and cultural heritage comes to an end, once and for all,” the group’s chairman, Kamalendu Nath, wrote.

Ossipee Conservation Commission and Green Mountain Conservation Group have also called on DRED to implement a management plan.

While local groups recently applauded the State for posting signs prohibiting camping and fires and for increasing Marine Patrol monitoring of the 300 to 350 boats that raft daily on weekends, they say those efforts aren’t enough to stop the damage because the rare plants and natural communities are directly on the shoreline. As long as the shore is open to recreation, the damage will continue, they say.

Eisener, who has been a lake resident for 50 years, says boaters are still pulling their boats onto the shore and damaging the vegetation with beach blankets, tents and beach chairs. He says there are dogs, drinking and organized parties.

Last week DRED confirmed that Marine Patrol officers monitored a Natural Area party with live music held in July by a group calling itself the Long Sands Sinners. No arrests were made because the activities remained offshore. The party would have been illegal had it been onshore because DRED requires a permit for organized events.

In addition to the shoreline damage, Eisener says people aren’t seriously considering the potential for an accident or water-borne illnesses.

“Would you believe boaters put their children at risk by having them swimming in this oil slicked water, with boats coming and going in this urine filled water?…What are they thinking?”

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