Ossipee—February 12, 2017—Ossipee Select Board member Richard Morgan wants the town to start setting aside money to purchase property for a new town beach on Ossipee Lake.
That’s according to a report in the Carroll County Independent, which quoted Morgan at the January 30 Select Board meeting. He promised there would be a discussion about the issue at Town Meeting in March, although a warrant article on the proposal has not yet been made public.
Unknown at this point is the location of the land the town is eyeing as a potential site. Morgan declined to identify it. Few shorefront parcels remain undeveloped on Ossipee Lake, and converting a residential property to a town beach would require the support of abutters and likely entail an array of costs beyond the purchase price to meet environmental regulations and provide parking and sanitary facilities.
Ossipee currently has three public beaches, including one on Ossipee Lake at Constitution Park, where the lake enters the channel to Broad Bay. That beach is unstaffed and posted with “no swimming” signs, although swimmers generally ignore the prohibition. It also owns a town beach on Duncan Lake, where summer recreation programs are held, and a small beach on Nichols Road on Ossipee Lake.
A Perennial Idea
The dream of a new beach on Ossipee Lake has been kicking around Ossipee Town Hall for years, with Morgan a primary proponent. In the mid-1960s, officials considered purchasing from developers a chunk of what became state-owned Ossipee Lake Natural Area, but the plan failed when its sponsors were unable to address environmental and parking issues.
Almost 40 years later, Morgan was a booster of then-Selectman Harry Merrow’s all-out effort to convince DRED to permit Ossipee to build a public beach in the Natural Area, which the town proposed to manage on behalf of the state. The plan was rejected on environmental grounds, but not before it sparked an ugly public debate about its suitability.
That debate, which was more than a decade ago, is evidently still fresh in Morgan’s mind. Last year he opposed a proposal for a town “build-out” study—a common tool for town planners—because Green Mountain Conservation Group (GMCG) was a participant.
At a meeting to discuss the build-out proposal, he slammed the environmental group and blamed it for killing the Merrow beach plan, vowing to oppose any future town projects that involve the organization for as long as he is in office.
In fact, GMCG was part of a coalition of area organizations that opposed the Merrow plan on environmental grounds, including Ossipee Lake Alliance and Long Sands Association, which had abutter status in the matter. Surveys conducted at the time showed a majority of lake property owners were opposed to the beach, as were state organizations including the Lakes Management & Protection Program at DES and the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.
Since DRED’s management plan for Ossipee Lake Natural Area would seem to rule it out as a location, speculation has begun about the location the town has in mind, as well as the likely cost to taxpayers. While those details may not be known for several weeks, what appears certain is that Morgan is gearing up for a campaign.
“It’s been a pet peeve of mine and many other people for years and years and years and years,” he said at the January 30 Select Board meeting, according to the Independent. “I can’t think of another town that doesn’t have a town beach on its main body of water. It’s pathetic.”