Ossipee – June 10, 2009 – In a posting on Ossipee Lake Alliance’s website, John Hardie, a manager of Westward Shores Marina and Campground, defended the business after a day-long online assault from customers who accused management of everything from deferred maintenance to high prices to poor communication.
Saying his integrity was at stake, Hardie said the current owners have made more than $2 million in infrastructure improvements since they purchased the business in 1999. He challenged campers with grievances to call him directly or meet with him in person, and he posted his cell phone number and campground location.
Among the improvements Hardie cited are a new septic system for $1.1 million, expansion of the gate house for $289,000 and new docks for $315,000. He also said all of the campground’s buildings will be painted this year.
Hardie said many of the negative comments being posted sounded like “sour grapes…from campers who don’t think they will be able to afford changes” or who “are just resistant to inevitable change.”
Addressing those hoping for a change in ownership, he said things could be worse. A group that has been eyeing the property for several years would evict the current campers, pave the roads and “make the campground look like a mobile home park” if they gain control, he wrote.
As for complaints about a lack of activities at the family-oriented camp, Hardie said the weekly number of campers has declined by 50%, “making planning for activities or hiring someone to run them almost impossible.”
The furor over the campground, which has been a fixture on the lake since the 1940s, was triggered by two Ossipee Lake News articles published on the Ossipee Lake Alliance website.
The first, on June 2, featured an interview with campground owner Charlie Smith, who discussed his plan to condominiumize the campsites at the business. Last week, the plan was approved by the Ossipee Planning Board, but it has not yet been approved by the State.
The second article, on June 8, reported on a Sunday Boston Globe auction advertisement that stated the campground would be sold in a foreclosure auction on July 10.
Reached by phone, Smith said the ad was in error and he was confident the foreclosure could be avoided. A spokesperson for the auction house handling the sale said only the attorney handling the foreclosure could comment on the sale. Phone calls from the Alliance to the attorney were not returned.
Response to the articles was overwhelming, according to the Alliance webmaster. Yesterday, June 9, the website was accessed more than 2,100 times, approximately five times the typical single-day volume, and more than 40 people posted comments, some of which had to be removed as inappropriate.
“We’ve obviously tapped into strong feelings on this issue,” an Alliance spokesman said.
[Editor’s Note: All comments are welcome on this website, but please remember the basic rules of online posting. Name-calling is inappropriate and using capital letters to indicate screaming or anger doesn’t strengthen the message, it weakens it. Feel free to speak your mind and say what you want, but be respectful as you do it].