October 12, 2009 — The management plan for Ossipee Lake Natural Area is working and should be continued next year with a few tweaks. That was the consensus of DRED’s Natural Area Working Group when it met last week to assess the first year of the plan, whose goal is to balance preservation and recreation at the site.
Brian Nowell of the Forest Protection Bureau, whose rangers share compliance duties with Marine Patrol officers, said cooperation was “fairly good” considering the public is still learning about the new rules through signs, pamphlets and boater outreach efforts.
Nowell said his rangers had to remove a few boaters from closed sections of the property, including a surprising number of kayakers, which the group concluded might be a constituency that was neglected in this year’s public education campaign.
Although the fence at the rear of the public use section of the shoreline was breached at several points, Nowell said it was unclear whether it was from human or animal activity, noting that there are many deer and moose in the area.
An off-limits portion of the western shore known as Short Sands had the highest number of visible signs of human disturbance, according to Melissa Coppola of the Natural Heritage Bureau. She said the violations at Short Sands are a particular concern because it contains some of the rarest natural resources in the preserve and has the potential to recover from previous human damage if left alone.
Coppola conducted an end-to-end inventory of the Natural Area’s shoreline to establish a baseline of information that will be used in annual surveys to determine whether the new rules are effective in protecting rare plants and natural communities.
The members of the boating community on the panel – John Panagiotakos, Richard Lover and Alan McKenney – said they spent much of the summer talking with boaters to create awareness of the new rules and did not encounter any resistance. Nowell and Marine Patrol official Josh Dirth agreed, saying when boaters were told they were in violation they willingly complied.
But Nowell added that while public education will continue, enforcement of the “No Trespassing” rule for the closed sections of the property will be “stepped up” and citations will be issued to violators next year.
Clean, Safe Environment
Boating violations and water safety issues were about the same as in the past, according to Marine Patrol official Dirth. He and the boaters on the panel said it appeared people were doing a good job of self-monitoring, noting that the only reported injury at the site occurred when a youngster jumped off a boat and cut his foot on an anchor.
Jean Hansen, who represents Long Sands Association, reported on the Working Group’s monitoring for E. coli at the Natural Area, Pine River and Red Brook, the last of which is immediately to the east of the preserve.
There is no bathroom facility at the remote Natural Area site, but DRED provided a port-a-potty at the Pine River public boat ramp this year. Hansen said the water samples, collected on four occasions from May through August, did not show levels that exceed state standards. The samples were processed by DES.
Litter and trash, a long-time issue at the site, also appear to be under control. This spring, Totem Pole Park resident Dennis Gould led a volunteer clean-up effort to establish a baseline measure for a litter-free environment. He and others continued their monitoring this summer and found practically no litter.
Was this summer typical, and can this year’s good start to the plan predict a similar outcome next year?
In regard to the weather, the summer of 2009 was anything but typical, with weeks of rain and cool temperatures spoiling many weekends – and entire weeks – in June and July. Then there was the recession, which kept the overall number of visitors to the lake down, according to marina owner Wayne Killam, a Working Group member.
With better weather, more boats and bigger crowds on a regular basis, things could be different at the Natural Area next year. But the Working Group members said they are optimistic that this year’s results can be leveraged for a positive outcome next year and set the stage for long-term success.
The biggest change for next year is that citations will be issued for people who violate the posted regulations.
“If someone is sitting on the shore in front of a ‘No Trespassing’ sign or is found behind the fence in the public use section, he’ll be written up and fined,” DRED official Nowell said.
DRED is considering some tweaks to the wording on the signs for clarity, and is also considering a rule that would prohibit glass containers in the public use section.
Working Group members agreed that more needs to be done to reach kayakers and canoeists, including those from the area’s children’s camps. Signs may be posted next year at popular launch locations, such as the Bearcamp River, and the state will expand the designated area where kayakers and canoeists can pull on shore to rest in the public use section.
DRED is planning to issue two new pamphlets on the Natural Area next year, and will also consider installing information kiosks at the Pine River and Pequawket Trail boat ramps.