Ossipee – August 6, 2010 – The summer has been sunny and hot, and that’s meant a lot of boats on the lake with plenty of them anchored at Long Sands, the informal name for state-owned Ossipee Lake Natural Area.
Thanks to unique rules established two years ago by the state agency DRED, boaters once again have the option of using a section of the shoreline that’s designated for public access, or anchoring offshore and recreating from their boat at the popular big lake site.
While compliance with the property’s management plan has been high, there have been pockets of resistance by a minority of boaters – resistance that has resulted in stepped up law enforcement.
“We are issuing citations this summer to individuals unwilling to comply with the rules,” said Captain Bryan Nowell of the Forest Protection Bureau, the DRED department that’s working with Marine Patrol officers to enforce the state’s regulations at the site.
Nowell says 20 citations have been issued to boaters so far this year for trespassing on the parts of the Natural Area that are closed to protect rare plants and historic resources. Much like a traffic ticket, a citation for trespassing results in a court process that can be costly and time-consuming.
Officials are also investigating the destruction of a fence that divides the public access shoreline from the closed portion of the property. If apprehended, the vandals could face a Class A misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $1,200.
For the past two seasons, a Working Group of state officials, local organizations (including the Alliance) and boaters has worked diligently to create awareness of the management plan rules, whose aim is to permit a balance of recreation and preservation at the site.
By all accounts, the management plan has been a success and cooperation has been high. But after two seasons of hanging signs, handing out pamphlets and speaking with boaters, state officials believe anyone caught violating the rules at this point is likely doing so on purpose.
Boaters who want to see the management plan succeed agree.
“It’s a small number of bad apples causing the problems,” said one boater who spends almost every weekend at Long Sands.
“Some people think the rules don’t apply to them and the state isn’t going to enforce them anyhow. It makes all of us look bad.”
In fact, boaters were among those who reported a series of incidents to state officials that occurred over the long 4th of July weekend and resulted in the increased enforcement.
At the public access portion of the shoreline, a group of between 25-30 people pulled their boats onshore and unloaded a cooler of glass bottles. After being approached by a fellow boater, the group pulled their boats back into the water but defiantly kept their bottles onshore.
“What can you do after you’ve politely asked someone to comply and they won’t?” asked one boater who witnessed the encounter.
In another incident, boaters from five boats pulled onshore at an isolated western section of the preserve where they drank beer directly under a large ‘No Trespassing’ sign and were observed using the woods to relieve themselves.
Boaters who reported the second incident said they were reluctant to approach the group because of its size and because of the heavy drinking that was involved.
State officials said the boaters made the right decision, adding that the Carroll County Dispatch number should be used to report violations at the Natural Area just as it’s used to report accidents. County Dispatch will then notify the person or agency best able to respond based on who is on duty and where they are patrolling.
The number for Carroll County Dispatch is 800-552-8960.
Alliance director David Smith said incidents like the ones reported this summer were expected and in no way reflect on the success of the plan.
“A small group of people promised they would defy the state and they have. It’s not a surprise,” he said.
“The real story is that a majority of boaters are working to make Long Sands a model for how recreation and preservation can co-exist on a major state lake. The level of cooperation is pretty impressive.”