Natural Area Working Group Meets

Freedom—November 19, 2017—The Ossipee Lake Natural Area Stakeholder Working Group convened its semi-annual meeting on November 14 at Calumet Conference Center in Freedom. The group was created in 2008 as part of a management plan to balance preservation and recreation at the Natural Area, which is unique in the state in its number of natural and historical resources.

The Working Group, chaired by Sabrina Stanwood of the Natural Heritage Bureau, lacks statutory decision-making authority but helps the state implement the management plan, makes recommendations about management issues, and facilitates good communication among lake stakeholders.

Ossipee Lake Alliance is a member, as are Long Sands Association, Green Mountain Conservation Group, N.H. Lakes Association, members of the boating community, and the Towns of Freedom and Effingham. State entities include the Lakes Management Advisory Committee, the Lakes Management and Protection Program of DES, the Marine Patrol unit of the Department of Safety, and DNCR, the Division of Parks and Recreation and Forest Protection Bureau.

A special ecological feature of the Natural Area is that it is an exemplary sandy pond shore community—one of only 13 in the state. The three rare native plants that exist at the site are Hairy Hudsonia, coastal plain grass-leaved goldenrod, and small-flowered dwarf-bulrush.

Each year state biologists measure the Hudsonia patches, conduct surveys to locate historic rare plant populations, and make a visual inspection of the entire shoreline. The plan is modified annually based on how well the management is doing. Positive trends allow for less frequent surveys and additional focus on relocating historic rare plant populations.

This year’s surveys, conducted on September 1, included measuring Hudsonia patches in front of and behind the fences at the areas known as Long Sands and Short Sands. The surveys show the population is growing in the protected areas.

In addition to doing surveys to relocate historic rare plant populations, researchers revisited the small-flowered dwarf-bulrush population and found it increased from 38 plants in 2016 to more than a hundred plants in 2017. They also discovered a potential historical species from the early 1900s, which is possibly comb-leaved mermaid weed.

Another aspect of the annual work done at the site is the removal of the fences at Long Sands and Short Sands in October, and the removal of signs along shoreline. During this work a deceased loon was found at a pocket beach and given to the Loon Preservation Committee for an autopsy.

To achieve the goal of safe and clean recreation and protecting natural and historic resources, the Forest Protection Bureau has placed cameras at both beaches. The photographs collected help provide information on problem times and locations.

Marine Patrol and Forest Rangers work to educate people who are misusing the Natural Area, and hand out citations as necessary. The boating community members on the Working Group are also very active in educating beach users on any infractions.

DNCR will be posting a boater education map of the Natural Area at the Route 25 public boat ramp showing the protected areas and the area where recreation is permitted. Ossipee Lake Alliance will provide a link to the map once it is published.

The overall opinion of the Working Group continues to be that the management plan is working and is a success. Rare plant communities are being restored and are growing, and boaters are recreating more responsibly in the open portions of the shoreline, away from posted areas and the bogs behind the fences.

Further information about the Natural Area is on Ossipee Lake Alliance’s website at this link.

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