Ossipee—March 7, 2023—Stella Lunt is 15, a sophomore at Kingswood Regional High School. She lives in Ossipee, a stone’s throw from Leavitt Bay, where she and her family swim in the warm months off a small piece of shore they own.
In grade school she attended Green Mountain Conservation Group’s Volunteer Biological Assessment Program, which got her interested in the natural world and started her on a habit that continues today—picking up litter along Old Route 25 and Leavitt Road, especially around Phillips Brook, which empties into the lake.
“Every day is Earth Day,” she says with a laugh about her litter routine. “Another opportunity to show respect for the environment.”
For the past two years, Stella has ramped-up her environmental commitment by being a visible and vocal attendee at the Meena gas station hearings. She has written letters, spoken out, and learned from observing the proceedings, which she attends with her mother, Billie Lunt. She is a notable young presence in a sea of adults.
She says she knows the issues in the Meena case are complicated, and appreciates that the ZBA and Planning Board have always listened to her respectfully. But she’s disappointed at what she has seen.
“At one meeting there was a discussion about bushes and landscaping that went on forever,” she says. “There hasn’t been enough discussion about why it’s dangerous to have a gas station on top of the water supply for ten towns.”
Most people learned about Meena’s application by reading about it. Stella learned about it first-hand because her school bus stop is directly in front of the Meena site, which is the former Boyle’s Market. That likely made her the first in her neighborhood to see construction workers arrive one day two years ago and start digging things up.
She asked her mother what was going on, and her mom asked the workmen, who told her to mind her own business. That got their attention. Later it was found the work was illegal and had to be shut down by the town.
By then, Stella had learned a lot about the owner and the application and the hearing process by which Effingham will decide whether a gas station will be safe for the public, including her family, friends and neighbors. She and her mom have attended all of the hearings except one when Stella had a school conflict.
At first, the idea of speaking in front of a crowd was scary. But after writing a few letters and reading them aloud, she got the hang of it. Teachers at school and her friends encouraged her.
“It’s hard to be the one who says what other people are afraid to say,” she says, “but I learned to do it.”
At the hearings, her comments are always respectful but to the point. Having witnessed Meena’s construction workers start building a gas station without town approvals, she felt justified in giving the ZBA a candid opinion of Meena’s trustworthiness.
“They’ve already proven that they don’t follow the rules,” she said at the special use permit hearing in January.
“A special use permit would at least allow the community to understand how the applicant intends to protect the aquifer.”
Stella is committed but realistic. She knows some people are reluctant to make the gas station their issue because it’s not near where they live, or they think it won’t affect them if something goes wrong. She says she wishes more people would attend the hearings when they start up again.
“Experiencing the hearings is different from reading about them,” she says.
“If more people attended, they would see that you can’t just pretend a development like this won’t affect you because you don’t live near it.”
This is an important issue. How can we become involved? I am so proud of Stella. She was in my kindergarten class. Maybe we can help as a school community.
Dear Miss Stella Lunt,
Thank you, from our entire Family and huge circle of Friends for your attention to an extremely important project, and the dire consequences that can conceivably arise destroying the aquifer, Lake and surrounding landscape we’ve come to know and love since the mid 1970’s. We could not imagine the landscape and Heart of our White Mountains being anything else but Heaven on Earth.
Your interest is peaked by knowing there is something very wrong going on, and this is amazing in the age of techno devices most young adults are enthralled with, that you, Stella, at 15 years a young adult take such interest.
Thank you once again. You are a shinning star, and is that not also the interpretation of your name, Stella?
Steve Foley, Family and Friends
I can only second Steve Foley’s comments.
We have followed this issue since its inception, on Cassie Cove in the summer and from NJ in the winter. I do not have the honor of knowing Stella but I could not be any prouder of her than I am of our own three grown daughters when they stand up for WHAT US RIGHT!
I am a resident of Center Ossipee and have followed the Meena case with keen interest. I am so grateful to Stella Lunt for standing up for our community and speaking out. In my mind’s eye the entire approach by Meena, (Pankaj “Prince” Garg and Mark McConkey) was underhanded and heavy booted. I believe that the preservation of New Hampshire’s vital natural resources is key to our survival and identity as a community and a State. Sustainable low footprint development can be accomplished through well-planned, well-managed programs and governance. Unfortunately, what has been churned out thus far has been low cost, storage shed businesses and the like which are owned and developed by companies and individuals from out of State who have little interest in the impact on the community or its vital resources. From now on I will strive to be more like Stella Lunt: more vigilant, engaged, with a focus on positive stewardship of our community and environment.
What an inspiration you are, Stella! Thank you for your dedication, courage, and commitment to protecting the environment. I love your statement that everyday is Earth Day for you – as it should be for all of us. Your respectful and direct approach to the many questions and concerns regarding the Meena case should be an example to the adults in the room. Keep on keeping on!
Center Sandwich, NH
Bravo Stella! Thank you for speaking up for the aquifer, the lake, drinking water protection and your community! Your family must be so proud. What a role model you are for others! More people like Stella need to speak up for common sense and what is right at the next Effingham Planning Board meeting on April 6!
Stella Lunt and her mother’s determination are inspiring and I too, hope more people will take up this important cause and attend future meetings to defend what my ‘then-3 year-old daughter referred to as “our precious natural resource~ water”.
There are more & more people, down stream as well, who are deeply concerned about the health of the aquifer, who will start coming again to the meetings when they restart. Hope some of the planning board meetings will be conducted in summer when more people, who are directly affected, are in town (guess many aren’t residents of NH, however?).
Please ask her if she minds being referred to as ‘Stella of the Aquifer’! Her Mom’s a hero, as well and so are all those who keep fighting for unpolluted, healthy water, especially David Smith, Matt Howe and Tara Schroeder.
Thank you all!
Stella, you are a role model for people of all ages. Thank you for all that you have done and are doing!
The voice & actions of our youth !!! Stella, you are a powerful example & motivator. Bravo to the parents, teachers, community members in supporting the strength & avenues for this young person to bring educating, respect & change.
Thank you Stella for your commitment, activism and positive energy. You are indeed a role model for us all. I am grateful to all the adults who have supported you as well. One of the most heartening things for me, as an older adult, is to see someone young care about our precious water resource and help respectfully usher in positive change.
What a remarkable young woman. She is right that building a gas station over an aquifer is harmful to many communities. And that the Meena company is untrustworthy, as are other adults in the system. The process should be particularly rigorous, rather than particularly lax, since the health and well-being of so large a catchment of communities is at stake. Are the profits of one company worth putting so many at risk?
Thank you to all who are inspired by Stella and her commitment to the environment. I hope her story provides an opportunity for you to ask yourself “What can I do?”
Keep in mind that it is not a done deal yet. This water runs all the way to Portland Maine. Stella is hopeful that more people will get involved to stop the process from continuing forward.
Thank you for taking the time to comment and show Stella that her efforts make a difference. She is a small voice in a sea of grown adults.
Stella You r an inspiration &I am going 2 make a contribution to the green Mt Conservation Group in honor of your courage &diligence I have spent every summer of my life(I am 76) on Lake Ossipee & the water quality &the beauty of the surrounding woods &wetlands require the kind of vigilance you demonstrate Thank you! Ronnie Flaschner Haverhill rd in Freedom
Thank you Stella. My impression is you made a move out of your comfort zone and became a stronger more confident person. You are a great role model for others and please continue your concern for our environment.