Freedom—December 26, 2012—2012 was the year of the tax appeal, as a group of lake residents went after Ossipee officials with two legal actions—including a class action lawsuit—alleging the town’s assessments of lakefront properties are inflated. The lawsuits were cheered around the lake, with many homeowners echoing the complaint that their assessments and taxes have continued to rise even as sales prices continue to decline.
It was a bad year for local fire departments. In January, 21-year old former Madison firefighter John Robert Colcord was indicted on five felony-level arson charges stemming from a series of fires in four towns, including Freedom. The arson fires, as close to the lake as the Ossipee Pine Barrens, had kept the area on edge throughout the previous summer.
Then in March, former West Ossipee Fire Chief Bradley Eldridge, 51, was arrested and charged with setting fire to a barn on Christmas Eve. March also brought word that Freedom’s Select Board had put long-time fire official Gene Dow on administrative leave while declining to say why. He was later replaced as chief, also without explanation.
On a positive note, Freedom’s fire department opened an eagerly-awaited new facility that also houses the town’s police department. The building was delivered on time and on budget, and was celebrated at a February open house.
The mild winter weather meant thin ice, and in March two dogs went into the lake at Berry Bay. By the time a town rescue team arrived, the dogs’ owner was also in the water. Everyone was pulled to safety.
It’s well known that our area is seismically active, but it’s always a surprise when the earth starts to shake. A 4.0-magnitude trembler in October shook things up enough to have residents peering into the fog the next morning to make sure the dam hadn’t given way and drained the lake. No damage was reported, and the lake remained where it was the previous day.
Milfoil is one of New Hampshire’s most serious environmental issues, but you would never know it from state funding. An Ossipee Lake Alliance survey released in June showed the state’s share of milfoil control costs is down to just 12 percent of the total, leaving the rest of the funding up to towns like Freedom and Ossipee. The survey also showed half of the state’s infested waters continue to have no milfoil control plan at all.
As if to underscore the milfoil threat, a new batch was found in early autumn near the mouth of the Pine River. It was the big lake’s first confirmed infestation. New milfoil was also found in Pickerel Cove in Broad Bay, and there was major new growth of the weed in Huckins Pond. All of the lake’s infested areas were treated this year according to management plans developed by the Freedom and Ossipee conservation commissions in cooperation with DES.
It was marina versus marina when Kevin Price of Ossipee Lake Marina leveled a long list of charges against Wayne Killam, owner of Lakefront Landing Marina and Campground. Chief among Price’s complaints was that Killam’s sale of boat slips, while authorized by the state, was illegal because the docks lacked permits. Killam countered with an affidavit from the marina’s previous owner stating the docks were grandfathered because they were in place prior to 1979. DES agreed with Killam. It dismissed all of the complaints, but ordered him to move eight of his 44 slips closer to shore to comply with state rules.
We said goodbye this year to Thomas “Papa” Carney. Known as the Ice Cream Man, Carney was a familiar sight as he roamed the lake selling tasty treats from his boat, the “Aqua Delight.” A retired school bus driver, Carney was 67. The lake community also noted the passing of Charlie Smith, long-time owner of Westward Shores Campground and Marina.
What will individuals on the lake remember about the year? Some of our 3,691 Facebook fans weighed in with responses, including Marc Laliberte. He said his son was born on the 4th of July and just nine days later made his first trip to the family’s lake camp. Robert Smallwood wrote to say something unpleasant will stick in his mind—getting pinched by the Marine Patrol for being in the wrong part of the Natural Area. For Jenifer Murray Badershall, each time she saw the lake’s bald eagles was a memorable event.
And that’s the year, folks. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Alliance, whether you made a financial contribution or pitched-in to help with the work. Thanks also to Bob Smart, Dave Eastman, and Larissa Mulkern for their special reports for our newsletters and email news.
We’ll be celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2013 with new programs and other changes designed to ensure another decade of progress working for you to preserve and protect Ossipee Lake. On to the New Year!