Ossipee — August 23, 2007 — The N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development announced Monday that it is closing most of the beach in the Ossipee Lake Natural Area to public access beginning this week.
The 9,200 feet of shoreline, also known locally as Long Sands, is a popular destination for boaters on the lake. In recent years it has drawn attention from those who sought to develop it as a public beach with land access, as well as from those who were concerned that the current use of the land was destroying natural resources.
The shoreline, part of a 400-acre parcel of land on the south end of Ossipee Lake, is the longest undeveloped shoreline remaining on the lake. It was sold to the state in 1969 by the land development firm White and Sawyer, and is managed by the Department of Resources and Economic Development. Deed restrictions indicate that the land was not to be used for any purpose other than education or recreation.
According to a press release from the Department of Resources and Economic Development [DRED], all but 1,500 feet of beach will be closed to allow for the protection and restoration of rare and endangered plants and natural communities.
N.H. Rep. Harry Merrow campaigned to create a public beach with overland access at the natural area, primarily so that townspeople in Ossipee who do not have boats could have access to a beach on the lake. Merrow said he has no objection to the state’s announced plan.
“I don’t have any problem with them trying to protect stuff,” he said, but he said he is not certain about the extent to which the parcel away from the shoreline will be closed. The land extends from the lake to Route 25, and Merrow said he does not believe it is necessary to close those sections of the beach that are away from the water. “I don’t think the intent was to close the whole thing, but that needs to be clarified,” he said.
The section of the beach that remains open was also, at one point, the section Merrow had identified for a town beach. Merrow abandoned the plan for the beach, however, when George Bald resumed his job as DRED commissioner, and said the plan is not going forward at this point.
Many local conservation organizations, including the conservation commissions in Effingham and Ossipee, as well as Green Mountain Conservation Group and the Ossipee Lake Alliance have advocated for stronger preservation efforts by the state.
David Smith, executive director of Ossipee Lake Alliance, 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.”
Although he believes there should be recreational uses allowed at the area, the heavy use by boaters is too much for the natural resources, he said.
“That kind of recreation is not compatible. We know that it’s destroying the property. DRED has documented it,” he said.
Growing up vacationing on Ossipee Lake, Smith said he has witnessed the sandy areas of the beach being expanded (and natural vegetation being destroyed) progressively over the past 40 years. In recent years, he said he has seen people raking the beach with steel rakes. “The only reason to do that is to get vegetation out of the way. That’s what’s most disturbing to me.”
The closure will begin tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 24) and will remain in effect while DRED develops a management plan for the natural area over the winter. The plan is expected to be completed before next summer.
According to the press release, state personnel will be enforcing this restriction, but no details about how they will do that were available at press time. Earlier this summer, when DRED posted regulations for use of the state land at Ossipee Lake Natural Area, the agency sent representatives to the beach and to local boat launches to educate boaters about what they could and could not do there.
From Lone Pine to Pine River
The portion of the Natural Area that will be closed to public access and landing of watercraft will extend along the water between a large white pine tree (that gives the area the name Lone Pine) to the northeast, and the state property boundary beyond Pine River to the southwest. About 1,500 feet of the beach along Ossipee Lake will remain open, starting 200 feet from the northeast property boundary adjacent to Long Sands, and extending southwest to the large white pine. Passive recreation will be permitted in this area in accordance with Department rules.
The portion of the Natural Area immediately behind both the open and closed beaches is also closed to public recreation. This area begins at the top of the slope of the beach where vegetation is present. The open and closed areas of the Natural Area will be posted.
The DRED press release stated, “The Department will be consulting with members of the local community, lake users, conservation organizations, and others who are interested in the management of the Natural Area in development of the management plan. The plan will address the need for protection and restoration of the endangered rare plants and globally rare natural communities, determine appropriate public access and use of the area, address the protection of archeological resources, recommend educational programs, and identify the resources necessary to carry out the management plan.”
According to state officials say the portion of the Natural Area adjacent to the lake hosts a regionally rare sandy pond shore system with two globally rare natural communities (twig rush sandy turf pond shore and Hudsonia inland beach strand). The system provides critical habitat for three state Endangered plants (grassleaf goldenrod, slender bog clubmoss, and mermaidweed) as well as one state Threatened plant (hairy hudsonia).
A public session was held in Ossipee on May 5 to provide information on the unique nature of and challenges to management of the property and to receive public comment. The department’s presentation, a summary of public comment and additional information are on the Division of Forests and Lands website at nhdfl.org. According to the DRED press release, public comment can continue to be sent to Ossipee@dred.state.nh.us.