Freedom – December 31, 2008 – It was a Leap Year…did you notice? If nothing else, the weather made February 29 memorable since it was the coldest day of the winter, with a low of -14.6 degrees, according NorthConwayWeather.com.
In addition to bone-chilling cold, Mother Nature provided abundant snow and ice in the first part of the year, causing buildings to collapse at Camps Marist and Robin Hood and giving Bob Smart a lot to write about. Predicted spring floods didn’t materialize, however, and in the end the season fell short of the winter of 1969 – still the champion of snowy winters.
Summer’s relentless pattern of dreary skies and rain showers was dramatically interrupted by a tornado, which is rare but not unheard of in our area. Approaching from the southwest, it missed the lake but tore through parts of Ossipee, Effingham and Freedom with winds up to 135 mph, causing massive destruction of trees but sparing homes and lives.
A tempest of a different sort flared in cyberspace after neighbors of the Ossipee Lake webcam complained the popular device was creating a public nuisance by attracting gawkers. They threatened legal action, and cam-fans from around the country pleaded for a truce. So far, the truce has held.
Ending years of indecision, DRED called a meeting of state agencies and wrote a management plan it hopes will balance recreation and preservation at Ossipee Lake Natural Area. Then it convened a 17-member panel of boaters, environmentalists and business leaders to help make it work next summer.
It was a hung jury in the Sean Fitzpatrick love triangle murder trial, and a new court date was set for January. Donald Lee will also be back in court in January to explain why he still has no plan to remediate his damage to the lake more than two years after being told to do so by a judge. Another legal long-player, outdoor boat storage at Ossipee Lake Marina, went from Superior Court to Supreme Court and back to Superior Court, where the case will be re-tried in 2009.
In Concord, the world’s largest deliberative body approved several useful pieces of lake legislation and missed the boat on others. On the positive side, a loophole in State septic system regulations was eliminated, making it more likely that failed systems will be repaired when a lake property is sold. Also to the good, the mooring law was amended to allow new bodies of water to be added to the current list of lakes where moorings are controlled.
Despite well-funded opposition by owners of high-performance boats, a speed limit – a controversial but a worthy experiment – was mandated for Lake Winnipesaukee next summer. As the law was being signed, one of the bill’s most vocal opponents was seriously injured when she crashed her boat into a rocky island at night, killing a passenger.
After saying last year’s amendments to the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act would make the law simpler, the State delayed the January 1 start date because too many people couldn’t understand the changes. A delay to April 1st and another delay to July 1st didn’t do much to help.
Milfoil’s relentless destruction of State lakes continued without serious legislative debate. This year, 36 lakes applied to DES for $450,000 worth of help to remove milfoil and found the State had just $60,000 in the kitty.
New Hampshire pays for milfoil control with revenue from boat registrations; so the more boats there are, the more milfoil control money there is. But more boats means more milfoil enters the lakes and gets spread around; which means more boat registrations are needed to pay for more milfoil control. When boat registrations tank, as they did this year, the funding model (if you want to call it that) falls apart.
Legislators have rejected all manner of solutions, from boat ramp entrance fees to registrations for visiting out-of-state boaters. Instead, they’ve made milfoil a local problem, to be fretted about, fought over and ultimately paid for by lake towns and lake property owners, even though the State owns the lakes and controls the ramps.
As this year’s unfunded milfoil control projects roll over to next year – including a $14,000 Danforth Pond project – we congratulate Bill Denley as our new State Senator, and John Roberts, Susan Wiley and Mark McConkey as our new State Representatives. We wish them all the best and hope that a serious milfoil control plan will be at the top of their to-do lists for the New Year.
Before we ring-off, some shout-outs to some of our favorite people of 2008.
Ossipee residents Elizabeth and Bob Gillette led the Route 16 viewshed purchase and the Whittier Bridge restoration project, amazing us with what two determined people can accomplish in a single year.
Freedom’s community service dynamo, Jennifer Molin, seemingly overnight established the “Freedom Cares” organization to explore ways that Freedom’s historic buildings and unique character can be preserved as the town continues to grow and expand.
A toast also to newspaper columnist Ed Parsons, whose Conway Daily Sun articles about hiking – in the sun, in the rain, in the snow and at night – are a delight to read and are a reminder of the extraordinary natural beauty that lies just beyond the lake in the mountains that surround us.
Finally, our sincere thanks to those of you who wrote a check, sent us comments and ideas and in numerous other ways supported our work in a year that was challenging, to say the least. We will continue to work hard on your behalf and hope again to live up to your expectations.
Whether this message finds you on the lake or wishing you were, Happy New Year and all the best for 2009 from everyone at Ossipee Lake Alliance.