Ossipee – February 6, 2009 — Water quality, bathroom alternatives and dogs were among the topics at the second meeting of the Ossipee Lake Natural Area Working Group, the advisory committee that’s helping DRED official Don Kent plan the implementation of a management plan for the 400-acre preserve.
Sheila Jones, representing the Town of Effingham, and DRED official Kevin Donovan led a discussion about public bathroom alternatives that ranged from constructing an onshore toilet facility to purchasing a floating port-o-potty barge. While the group agreed that sanitation was a concern, there was disagreement on which bathroom alternative might be feasible and whether any kind of bathroom was appropriate to the character of the site.
After presenting their analysis of the onshore options, Jones and Donovan concluded that high lake levels, ice scouring, high groundwater levels and setback requirements made a shoreline bathroom impractical. Members of the boating community on the committee said that some boaters already bring onboard marine toilets to the site, and they agreed that others could be encouraged to do so.
Most agreed that there should be bathrooms at public ramps, such as DRED’s Pine River gateway, and there was general interest in exploring the idea of floating bathroom barges, which the State hopes to test on Lake Winnisquam. Given funding restraints, however, DRED official Kent summed up the discussion with the recommendation that the short-term solution is to encourage boaters to have marine toilets on their boats or return to onshore facilities.
The discussion about bathrooms led to a discussion on the quality of the lake water at the site. DES official Jacquie Colburn said her agency inspects public beach waters to monitor disease-causing pathogens via E. coli bacteria and toxin-producing cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, which can be toxic to animals and humans.
Test results are generally available within 24 hours at the State lab in Concord. If bacteria levels exceed DES’ water quality standards, or if technicians identify a cyanobacteria bloom, the agency posts advisory signs and then collects daily bacteria samples until samples achieve State standards.
Town of Freedom representative John Shipman advocated weekly testing at the site, but the group identified a number of challenges in using DRED’s testing method. These include the remote nature of the site, which is only accessible by boat, and the need to deliver samples to Concord for processing. David Smith of Ossipee Lake Alliance suggested using over-the-counter bacteria tests as an interim step.
Kent formed a sub-group to look at the options and make a recommendation on water testing at the next meeting. In addition to Colburn and Shipman, the subgroup includes Bud Berry of the N.H. Lakes Management Advisory Committee.
At the request of a member of the public, DRED official Melissa Coppola conducted a presentation on the potential use of what some call Short Sands, which is the preserve’s farthest point to the northwest.
The presentation illustrated that Short Sands cannot be used for recreation because it constitutes the State’s best opportunity for protecting and conserving the Natural Area’s four natural communities and two remaining threatened and endangered plant species.
The Working Group also reviewed State Statutes and Rules applicable to the Natural Area, many of which are confusing or present conflicts because they refer to developed parks and beaches rather than natural areas.
Dogs present one such issue. Many boaters bring dogs to the site. But while State rules permit animals on some properties, they are prohibited “at state coastal and freshwater beaches, established picnic shelters, and historic sites.”
Natural areas are not specifically referenced by the rule, but a member of the public who attended the meeting, Ann Pilkovsky, pointed out that whether or not the shoreline of the Natural Area is a “beach,” as the State defines it, the entire property is an historic site.
DRED official Kent discussed the ongoing Division of Parks and Recreation rule revision process and said he would clarify how “beach” rules pertain to the Natural Area situation at the next meeting, which will be on February 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Freedom Town Hall.