State Says There Is No Request to Limit Sandbar Use

Freedom—March 7, 2021—An online petition opposing a lake property owner’s request for the state to limit rafting at the Cassie Cove sandbar has garnered more than 3,000 signatures since being posted a week ago on Change.org.

Meanwhile, the state says no such request to limit rafting has been received.

The Change.org petition appears to have been launched in response to the February 3 posting of two letters on a social media group page for boaters.

One letter is on the letterhead of a North Conway law firm, dated January 29. Addressed to the Department of Safety on behalf of an Ossipee Lake property owner, it requests that the state hold a public hearing to restrict rafting at the sandbar due to concerns about water quality, boater safety and disorderly conduct. The letter states that the required 25 signatures had been obtained.

The second letter, in the name of the property owner, seeks neighbors’ support for a hearing, citing concerns about the “overwhelming number of people” at the site, and the failure of a previous state ruling to establish a balance between the rights of boaters and lake property owners.

Ossipee Lake Alliance is not identifying the law firm or the property owner as it has been unable to independently verify either letter. Repeated calls and emails to the law firm and the property owner were not answered last week.

A N.H. Department of Safety Services official said on Friday that the agency has not received a hearing request from the law firm or the property owner referenced in the January 29 letter.

Boaters at the channel sandbar on July 4, 2020.

The sandbar, which is located at what’s known as the s-curve to the channel between Broad Bay and the big lake, has been a popular rafting site since the 1950s. Unlike other rafting areas, however, its close proximity to property owners on the Freedom and Ossipee sides of the lake has made it a lightning rod for complaints for years.

Frustrated property owners organized and convinced the state in 2000 that crowds at the sandbar had created safety issues and were a public nuisance, citing drinking, loud music, litter and people swimming in the boat lanes. State Rule Saf-C 407.04, enacted in 2001, limited “rafts” there to 10 boats that must be 50 feet from the main navigation channel and be gone by sunset.

The rule remains in effect but is flawed because it can be interpreted as restricting the total number of boats to 10, or interpreted as permitting an unlimited number of “rafts” of boats, each comprised of 10 vessels. Additionally, it conflicts with the stricter terms of State Law RSA 270:44, which sets limits on the size of rafts and the parameters for their separation in the water.

As a result, the ruling has never been enforced, and neighboring property owners say the safety and public nuisance issues identified 20 years ago remain the same.

“The rule is flawed because the [hearing] petition was flawed,” a state official told Ossipee Lake Alliance last year, asking that we not use his name. “A new petition could address that,” he added.

Last summer saw a spike in boaters statewide as people flocked to New Hampshire lakes to escape pandemic restrictions and quarantines. Ossipee Lake was no exception. As the virus spread, state officials asked boaters to avoid rafting sites and limit boat passengers to family members. Marine Patrol Captain Timothy Dunleavy issued a rare personal plea to boaters to “assist his officers” and “do the right thing” by complying.

While some boaters signaled their support on social media, most did not, and the lake’s rafting sites were packed all summer. At Cassie Cove, more than 70 boats jammed the sandbar during the July 4 holiday weekend.

Few lake issues prompt as much divisiveness as rafting, with opinions split not just between boaters and property owners, but among boaters themselves.

On the side of rafting tradition is boater “Jack O’Sullivan,” who wrote on the Change.org petition: “I grew up going to the sandbar and channel. 82 years old now! Please don’t restrict this area. No other like it.”

From “Spindle Point Property Owner” in an online post last summer: “My family owns property on Spindle Point & people totally ignore the private property signs, pull up to our property after boozing all day on the Sandbar…Let their children/dogs take a dump on our property… while we are still there sitting on our boat…”

Taking a middle ground position is a boater posting as “Atony,” who wrote “I remember the days when there would just be a few kids swimming or playing catch on the sandbar….no music, no alcohol and no trash/litter. I don’t know how things got so out of hand.”

7 Comments

  1. Ann Johnson 1 month ago March 8, 2021

    People come to Ossipee lake because we have a public launch. All lakes should have public access so they don’t have to all crowd on Ossipee lake. Pine river pond, Silver lake to mention a couple.

    REPLY
  2. Ann Johnson 1 month ago March 8, 2021

    Leave the sandbar as it is or they maybe rafting in front of your house.

    REPLY
  3. Atony 1 month ago March 8, 2021

    It’s not just the sandbar that is the cause for concern. It’s the result of the overcrowded conditions and behavior during those “rafting” events. Litter, excessive drinking and the resulting DWI often comes along with those weekend and holiday sandbar extravaganzas. Don’t tell me many of those party folks are not inebriated…I’ve seen it first hand and repeatedly. And as far as the Marine Patrol is concerned I have only ever seen just one boater arrested for DWI but I know there have been far more folks who spend hours drinking and then head off in their boat (I am close enough to the sand bar to bare witness). It’s one thing to open the lake up with public boat launches so all can enjoy but it’s another to allow the irresponsible behavior that is ensuing. Those of us who live on the lake are paying hefty taxes to be there so we have a vested interest in lake pollution, overcrowding , milfoil ect. I think many of us just want to make sure the lake environment is protected and we can pass along a great place to the next generation.

    PS, If Pine River Pond, Silver Lake or any other local lake has seen what is going on in Ossipee Lake it would not surprise me that they don’t have public boat ramps!

    REPLY
  4. Richard 1 month ago March 9, 2021

    Welcome to the world of dealing with the State and the virtual impossibility of pleasing everyone. No matter what the outcome of a public hearing brings……the State and the boating public will NEVER be able to agree on how to limit accessibility or overall numbers at one time being at the sandbar. Even if by some Divine manner of intervention that did happen, the Marine Patrol would not ever have the man power to be able to enforce theses limiting restrictions. I truly feel for the local property owners and their loss of their privacy, and having to deal with the crowds of boaters that choose to go to the sandbar……but you also have to balance that with the boating public’s right to use the natural resources of the state and the lake. I personally am so very thankful for the various conservation groups in the Ossipee area and their work to save and hopefully preserve the lake and it’s resources for all people now and in the future. We all need to use these resources respectfully.

    REPLY
    • Atony 1 month ago March 9, 2021

      “impossibility of pleasing everyone” That is the trap or excuse used to allow government to not actually move on the issue. If the focus was just on what is better for the lake it becomes a much easier issue to solve.
      Funny you should mention the Marine Patrol and the limited manpower. They sure seen to have plenty of manpower to write “no wake” citations. In my opinion the reality is the the Marine Patrol would much rather write a no wake citation than deal with drunks. It’s the easiest route for them to take but with regards to safety it’s the worst.

  5. T 1 month ago March 9, 2021

    If you don’t like it, buy property on another lake ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. We won’t miss you. So again to the complainers: if you don’t like Ossipee Lake and the amazing, caring, hospitable people that come with it, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!! See ya!

    REPLY
  6. Atony 3 weeks ago March 24, 2021

    Fantastic. So we just pack up and move on…that’s the best you got? Nothing about protecting the lake? Let the abuse, pollution and inebriated roll on and celebrate the wash up of used diapers and beer cans on the shoreline.
    T….you’re a real problem solver! (/—”/”—-) ++++

    REPLY

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *