Confusion and Resistance Over Dogs

Freedom—June 2, 2022—It started with a post by Mark V. on the Facebook group “I Boat on Ossipee Lake.”

After watching an unleashed dog defecate on the beach at Ossipee Lake Natural Area, he offered the owner a plastic bag for a clean-up. The owner declined and tossed the mess into the woods.

“If you bring a dog, and I love dogs, please clean up after them, make it nice for all of us,” Mark wrote, prompting 84 likes—and 97 comments. The comments quickly turned ugly.

Writing in all-caps, Marie S. offered “NH LIVE FREE OR DIE GET OVER IT DOGS ARE FREE TOO,” prompting push-back from those favoring a more public-spirited approach to pet responsibility.

Unpersuaded, Marie fired back: “My dog will be on that beach and not leashed as it has been since 1976 if you don’t like it move to another beach,” she wrote.

“Just because you have moved here recently doesn’t mean you change what has been,” she added, calling her critics “narrow minded elitists.”

While it’s likely a majority of boaters support the idea of keeping dogs on a leash and cleaning up after them, there has been confusion about dogs at the Natural Area for years. Now the issue has been cleared-up: State regulations prohibit dogs from being on the property, leashed or unleashed.

New state signs make clear dogs are prohibited onshore at the Natural Area. Photo: DNCR

The prohibition has been on the books since the Natural Area management plan went into effect in 2009. But what was clear then became murky over time as state enforcement efforts lagged, and boater-to-boater communication—the glue that holds the property management plan together—petered-out.

Last year, Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group helped revive the boater communications plan with Dennis Gould, a long-time volunteer who years ago worked with the two non-profits to secure the state’s commitment to keep part of the environmentally fragile, culturally-significant property open for recreation, a traditional use going back decades.

In exchange, Gould and others from the boating community agreed to be influencers to steer boaters away from the closed sections of the property, and to abide by the state’s site regulations.

But the prohibition against dogs has always been a source of confusion. It’s in the 2009 property management plan, and was in an early version of a boater education pamphlet. But it was never listed on the state signs that dotted the site, all of which contained generic information pertaining to state properties that bear no resemblance to the unique situation at the Natural Area.

Now the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), the successor to the state agency DRED, has posted newly-designed signs with a list of site-specific regulations that are clearly—and succinctly—written. The list includes “Dogs are not allowed on land.”

Additionally, motorboats must remain anchored offshore, canoes and kayaks must land only in the marked landing area, and boaters need to stay within the designated recreation area. Glass containers, fires and camping are prohibited.

State enforcement consists of Marine Patrol and Forest Ranger visits, the latter aided by a new boat this year. Monitoring is also accomplished through electronic means. Violators are subject to being fined, and the property’s management plan states the ultimate outcome in the event of widespread non-compliance:

“DNCR will end public access if public use consistently or egregiously violates posted rules, resulting in: 1) the loss of threatened and endangered plants or exemplary natural communities, or 2) destruction of historic resources and interference with efforts to reconstruct the historical record, or 3) an unclean, unsafe environment.”

Volunteer boater Dennis Gould last week installed plastic containers at the site to hold the boater information pamphlet and make it easy to obtain one. Pamphlets are also available at marinas and boat ramps, and are hand-distributed to boaters by volunteers as needed.

In a Facebook post, Gould said he hopes boaters will consider what he and his fellow volunteers are trying to accomplish by keeping the area clean and educating the public.

“I urge all my fellow boaters to please respect the limited rules so all of us can continue to enjoy Long Sands,” he posted, using the short-hand name for the site.

Ossipee Lake Alliance co-founder David Smith pointed to the years of work that went into securing the agreement to keep part of the shore open for recreation, involving dozens of lake stakeholders.

“At the start of the process, boaters and conservationists were shouting at one another. But in the end, we made state history with a unique win-win solution,” he said. “Many new boaters may not be aware of how much it took to get to where we are today.”





  1. Don Hamill 2 years ago June 2, 2022

    We are new to the lake and Mr. Smith’s quote resonates with us. “New boaters may not be aware of how much it took to get to where we are today.” May I suggest further public education as to the need to protect this area. Perhaps along with the signs as to what is and is not allowed, language be added as to why? I’m not sure folks understand the historical significance or the delicate ecosystem that exists (species of plants, etc.) I think the “live free or die” folks might embrace the restrictions if they knew more specifically why they are necessary.

  2. Gary Cowles 2 years ago June 2, 2022

    I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed Long Sands for 23 years. I am very fearful that we are close to losing access to this amazing spot due to the actions of a thoughtless minority. Please get the word out. Just obey the damn rules.

  3. Stephen Foley 2 years ago June 2, 2022

    I’m with Mr. Cowles on this.

    Further, I think we need to keep perspective relative to the Marie S. comments and others. Lets be “Vigilant” and take video or pictures of violators. We are the first line of defense for our environment. Marine Patrol isn’t always available and I’m sure they would love to have pictures and videos of scofflaws.

  4. Reggie 2 years ago June 2, 2022

    Now their will be dogs doing their business IN the water! Just because of a few idiots. And I mean the ones who didn’t clean up and because of the complainers.

  5. Richard L. 2 years ago June 3, 2022

    EVERYONE has a stake and vested interest in abiding by ALL of the rules that are part of the Long Sands Natural area. I have been a volunteer on the committee that state formed to deal with the issues of keeping the beach area open for the public to continue using for recreation safely by all people. We have always tried to take the “let’s be nice and educate the people” approach. But year after year we have faced the same issues of a small number people thinking that the rules should apply to everyone else and not them! Enough is enough it is time for the state to step in and step up with some core enforcement for those who continue to violate the rules. I would suggest that if you see someone allow their dog to go on the beach without being on a leash that you get picture of their boat registration numbers and submit it to the state DNCR. It is time that the state realizes that any rule is only as good as it is enforced ! That is their responsibility !

  6. Mark 2 years ago June 3, 2022

    I’ve been boating on Ossipee Lake since 1998. I’ve never seen so many dogs on boats as there are now. And I’ve never seen less respect for the Ling Sands Natural Area as I see now as well. People simply feel entitled when it comes to the lake. They blast music, dump trash, and treat their dogs better than most treat their own kids. It’s part of what’s going on in our society in general. I thought NH would be more resistant to this degradation than this, but I was wrong.
    The only way to protect Long Sands is to get tough with enforcement…start writing some big fines for dogs on the beach and start it TODAY.

  7. tj236 2 years ago June 8, 2022

    …well the state of NH in it’s infinite wisdom, wanted to “provide more access” to the lakes in the state. Sounded great but what was done to help preserve and protect the pristine nature of the environment? I have been on the lake since the 70’s and have seen the massive, uncontrolled increase in the wreck less and careless nature of drop-in boaters to the lake. Along with increased access came that lack of regard for the lake. From milfoil to trash and feces the lake is being abused. And although I support the police and marine patrol I’d prefer they stop these trivial no wake citations and focus more on the inebriation parties and the associated pollution. And it would be helpful if the state legislature would focus on laws to control excessive rafting and pollution of the water.
    But hey, at least there are now new, beautiful launches allowing easy access….

  8. Jay 2 years ago June 28, 2022

    As I sat on Long Sands this past weekend I was surrounded by people who brought their dogs along with them for a day on the water. Kids and dogs alike were having a blast! Every single one of them eventually brought their pups to the beach for the sole reason of relieving themselves. Not one had a means of picking up after their dog as well. By the glares I received I believe each owner was aware of the No Dogs Allowed On Beach rule. By the time I had departed there was even a smallish human who had made her way behind the green fence with a wad of paper towels in her hand. I have pictures for proof, but what do I do with them? Law or no law, without enforcement there might as well be no law.

  9. Donna 2 years ago August 18, 2022

    We’ve been going to the bear camp river area for years. We’ve brought our dogs (and poop bags). We noticed two families that let their dogs wander and head for the beach area to poop. We then (my daughter) let them know that their dog defecated and offered them bags. They then (I believe, picked it up). C’mon people we swim there. If you think the poop doesn’t go in the water, it does. I do believe it’s not people that own and come up every summer (I would hope not), but weekend warriors. We all need to understand that it’s not hard…pick up the shi&&t


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