Freedom—December 22, 2019—Next week we’ll publish our annual review of the year’s lake news. But since it’s also the end of the decade, we were curious about what we reported ten years ago, as we prepared to segue from 2009 into 2010. Here’s what we found.
Then, as now, there was a dispute between the owners of Westward Shores and their long-time campers. In May that year, owners Anthony Aversa and Charlie Smith began soliciting down payments for the purchase of condo-campsites by long-time campers “who had invested significant funds into their camps and wanted the security of owning the sites underneath them.”
Campers called the plan an urgent cash-grab to forestall a foreclosure of the property after years of mismanagement, and state and local officials pointed out that the owners did not have the required approvals for a condo conversion, which made the collection of down payments a potential consumer fraud issue. Aversa and Smith decided to return the deposits and file for bankruptcy protection.
What happened next remains one of the most curious stories we’ve ever covered. As campers sniped at the campground’s owners for keeping them in the dark about the bankruptcy, an anonymous online correspondent named “Westy Shores” began posting documents—from court filings to cash flow projections—peppered with suggestions about how campers could leverage the inside information.
To the best of our knowledge, the identity of “Westy Shores” remains a mystery, but we do know that the Westward Shores story did not turn out well for Aversa, who no longer lives in the area, or Smith, who died in 2012. Northgate Resorts bought the business from the receivers in 2016, and it has been in litigation over various issues ever since—including a lawsuit filed against it a year ago by long-time campers.
Crime and Punishment
The crime was committed in Massachusetts, but Ossipee Lake was cited frequently in the extensive national news coverage of the trial of Sean Fitzpatrick for the love triangle murder of his lake neighbor, Michael Zamitti, Jr. The “Dateline NBC” TV series captured the story in lurid detail, and Fitzpatrick was convicted and sent to jail. His unoccupied Mountview home later burned to the ground, and the site remains an empty lot.
In a Concord head-scratcher, Assistant Attorney General Richard Head approved a home equity loan application by serial environmental violator Donald Lee at the same time that the Ossipee Bluffs Association had a motion pending in State Superior Court requesting a lien on Lee’s property in the amount of its full value. The Donald Lee saga would not be resolved for another eight years, some 28 years after it began. A notable black mark in New Hampshire’s record of environmental law enforcement.
A 38-year old man died when he was thrown from his snowmobile after hitting an embankment near Berry Bay. Learning that emergency crews had trouble reaching the accident scene, the family of Chris Haynes helped raise money for Freedom to purchase a winter emergency transport vehicle called a “snowbulette.” In other accidents, snowmobilers went through the ice and into the water that year, but no one died or was injured in those mishaps.
Remember “The Trail Bandit”? For years the elusive map-maker and blazer of trails in the Ossipee Range was a folk hero to hikers who agreed with his message that they were being denied legitimate access to private land maintained by the state under conservation easement. But in 2009 he was unmasked as Henniker resident Bob Garrison. He agreed to stop blazing trails, the state and property owners agreed to clarify the rules of public access, and charges against him were dropped. His rants about the Ossipee Range remain on his website, however.
True or False?
True: The year 2009 was made notable by volunteers who helped ensure that Freedom’s historic buildings would remain in use. They organized to prevent town officials from moving municipal functions to a proposed complex on Ossipee Lake Road, and they revived the Freedom Village Store from dormancy, making it newly relevant as a place to socialize and purchase anything from a cup of coffee to a gift for a friend. A decade later, it’s clear how important their work was in retaining Freedom’s character.
True: It sounded like a joke, but the state actually announced in 2009 that it intended to sell the Madison Boulder because the historic site didn’t generate any revenue. Before anyone had a chance to purchase and monetize the 5,000-ton glacial erratic, state officials changed their mind.
False: CMI Motorsports did not receive an $18.5 million federal stimulus grant to begin work on its long-delayed racecourse. A fake news release to that effect angered a lot of construction companies looking for work in the midst of the Great Recession. After a decade of legal battles, the track finally opened in 2017 and quickly proved that concerns about how loud it would be were well-founded.
True: A planned $15,000 milfoil control project for Danforth Pond had to be rolled over to 2010 due to scheduling problems, and invasive weeds discovered in Pickerel Cove marked the lake’s sixth infestation site. In 2009 it became clear that lake towns and individual donors were paying the largest share of milfoil control costs. A decade later, they still do.
For more about 2009, look here.