Striking a New Balance

Ossipee — August 23, 2007 — This Monday, N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development announced that it will be closing a large section of Long Sands beach at Ossipee Lake Natural Area, leaving only 1,500 feet of shoreline open to people.

The decision has been a long time coming. The beach has been in the news off and on for more than two years, as some people who live on or around the lake have fought to develop the land as a public beach, while others have fought equally hard to protect and preserve the natural resources there.

On a sunny summer weekend day, dozens of boats can be found off the shores of Long Sands, and greater numbers of people can be found in the waters or on the beach itself. With the crowds that make their way to the beach weekend after weekend, it is easy to imagine how they could disrupt plant life along the shore, regardless of the well-intentioned efforts of many of the visitors to take care of the land.

Having determined that some of the plants fall into the rare and endangered categories, and that the presence of people there is damaging, it makes sense that the Department of Resources and Economic Development has taken steps to protect them. By limiting the human presence on the more than 9,000 feet of shoreline to only 1,500 feet, they are giving those plants a chance to recover and reclaim areas where they once thrived.

While the decision may be unpopular with those who have come to consider the beach primarily as a recreation area, we trust that the majority of visitors to Long Sands will respect and support the state’s decision, as it tries to find a new balance between its mandates to protect resources and provide recreation opportunities in the state’s natural areas.

The decision to close part of the beach is not the Department of Resources and Economic Development’s final word on the Ossipee Lake Natural Area.

The department is currently working on a management plan for the area, which it hopes to complete before next summer, and is still accepting comments on what people want to have happen there. If you have comments or concerns about the management of Ossipee Lake Natural Area, they can be emailed to ossipee@dred.state.nh.us. The Division of Forests and Lands, under which the management of Ossipee Lake Natural Area falls, can also be reached at 271-2214.

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