Natural Area in Spotlight Again

Ossipee—September 11, 2023—The state’s management plan to balance preservation and boater recreation at Ossipee Lake Natural Area was a unique experiment that worked for years. Now that era may be nearing an end.

Lake property owners report that boaters are ignoring the state’s no trespassing signs and have vandalized fences separating the recreation portion of the shoreline from the rest of the property, which is closed to allow rare plants and natural communities to recover from past abuse.

Acknowledging the increase in complaints, Patrick Hackley, Director of the Division of Forests and Lands, which manages the property, said the policy of keeping part of the shoreline open to the public will be discussed at an October meeting of lake stakeholders known as the Natural Area Working Group.

A couple walks their dogs at the Natural Area beach despite signs saying dogs are prohibited. Contributed Photo.

The complaints are not just from the lake community, but are also coming from boaters who have supported the state’s dual-use strategy for years. They say they have stopped trying to influence boaters who violate the site rules because of hostility and threats.

“We can’t do this alone,” said one veteran boater in frustration.

“There’s a new type of boater out there. They don’t care, they don’t listen. Their attitude is that no one is going to tell me what to do. That’s a law enforcement issue, not something for us to fix.”

In addition to ignoring the no trespassing signs, boaters are ignoring the prohibition against bringing dogs ashore, among other acts of defiance.

Long Sands Association President Mark Eisener said boaters last year hid a two-section boat dock in the bushes of the property near Pine River, an echo of past instances in which boaters brought lockable bins to the site to store chairs and grills.

“People would go there and move the dock from the bushes into the water so they could use it, and then move it back into the brush when they were done,” Eisener said.

The dock was gone this season, likely having floated away in one of the lake’s numerous high-water events.

Lack of Enforcement
“Right now at 3:17 there are three pontoons beached at long sands,” boater Lisa L. posted on social media on August 5, referring to the site’s alternate name.

Man watches as his dog picks a spot to urinate on the section of shoreline open for public recreation. Contributed Photo

“One group has at least 20 people on lawn chairs with tables right under the restricted sign. So entitled. Called Marine Patrol but looks like they are not on the lake today,” she wrote.

The lack of Marine Patrol enforcement is a frequent complaint, but Marine Patrol’s authority does not extend to the shoreline. What happens on the shore is the responsibility of the Forest Rangers who work for the Department of Forest and Lands.

As is the case with Marine Patrol officers, Forest Rangers are in short supply, and for years they did not have a boat. Each spring they would hitch a ride with volunteer members of the boating community to install the fences that separate public from non-public sections.

Citations for violations have been few. Last August, for example, the Rangers conducted four patrols that yielded 16 enforcement actions, according to a Forests and Lands official.

Nine of the citations were warnings, and the fine for each of the seven boaters receiving a citation was just $25. Hidden cameras and other technology the state said it would use to improve enforcement actions have not produced meaningful results.

State Representative Mark McConkey, who attends most Natural Area Working Group meetings, asked in May about the process for administering fines, which involves a hearing if the citation is challenged.

He was told of a case of a boater cited for having a dog on the beach. After challenging the fine and having a hearing date set, the boater failed to appear and defaulted. The cost of the ticket was still $25.

McConkey called the process “a questionable use of time and resources,” and suggested the state increase the fine “to make it worth it.”

An Honor System
The plan to keep part of the shoreline open for recreation in exchange for boaters steering clear of the rest of the property relies on a boater honor system. It was adopted in 2009 after years of uncontrolled recreation destroyed rare plants and turned the site into a “minefield with used toilet paper,” as one local official put it.

The understanding was that if boaters didn’t take the honor system seriously, the state would close the property entirely, as it did in 2007 while the management plan was being written. The management plan was overwhelmingly embraced by boaters and lake organizations as a win-win agreement.

Crowds of boaters at Ossipee Lake Natural Area, which has seen an increase in violations of the state’s site regulations since the pandemic.

The arrangement worked for the most part. But that changed after the pandemic brought an influx of new boaters to the lake, many of whom were vocally disdainful of regulations. An outreach campaign to reach them with new signs, an online video and pamphlets ensured there was a high level of awareness of the regulations, but compliance has continued to decrease.

“The pandemic pretty much marked the end of the honor system,” said Ossipee Lake Alliance’s David Smith, who added that cracks in the arrangement were apparent as long ago as 2016, when Working Group boaters alerted the state it needed to take a stronger hand in managing the site.

Smith pointed to boaters like Dennis Gould and Richard Lover as the reason the system worked for so long. He said they helped create a community of interest among boaters to show the state the honor system could work. Both eventually resigned from the Working Group, however, frustrated by the state’s lack of support.

For Lover, the final straw was boaters defying the signs prohibiting dogs, and allowing their pets to urinate and defecate on the public part of the shoreline near where children were playing. Lover also cited the growing level of hostility among boaters.

“Having people berate you and tell you to go get f’ed and asking why you are so stupid, it was finally all too much,” he said.

The names of several volunteer boaters still appear on the state’s Working Group member list, but only one is active, according to the Alliance’s Smith. He says it’s a major challenge for the state.

“The state relied on people like Dennis and Richard for years, but never backed them up with the one thing they asked for each year, which was enforcement to give their efforts credibility,” Smith said.

“Now they’re gone and there is no one to take their place.”

16 Comments

  1. tj236 7 months ago September 11, 2023

    “There’s a new type of boater out there. They don’t care, they don’t listen. Their attitude is that no one is going to tell me what to do.”

    Yes, that’s what happens when the state and local governments decide they must make the state waterways “accessible to everyone”. The volume of “drop-in” boaters has increased what appears to be exponentially, and many of those “drop-ins” don’t have a vested interest in the quality of the lake/environment.

    Once again, many thanks to the state officials for solving a problem that did not exist.

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  2. Mlc 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    There are Way too many new boaters who don’t know the rules and who don’t care about the lake. And Many dont care because they don’t own property or have a vested interest in preserving it. Close that route 25 public launch down.

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  3. Bar 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    i live on long sands and now the boaters are drifting in front of our properties and anchoring for the day with there loud music and where is the toilet , i believe they use the lake .
    Most pontoon boats are not equipped with toilets yet these people spend 8-10 hrs anchored in front of our homes.
    We need to create some rules about how far you can anchor off the shore line and maybe charge a fee or permit to use the public launch to help support the needed law enforcement there.

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  4. Leavitt Bay Family 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    Our family owned a house on Leavitt Bay from 1973-2014. Just over 40 years. Long Sands and the Big Pine were a favorite, remarkably-pristine summer boating destination for us.

    In August 2000 (hopefully prior to prohibitive regulations), I brought my metal detector along for the ride. We parked in front of the Big Pine. We had the place to ourselves. I swung the detector no more than 5 times and found a silver 1934 quarter, which I still have. Probably dropped in the 1950s or 60s. Clearly, no one had ever detected that beach. I searched the entire shoreline and only found a few pre-1975 pull tabs. How many people had enjoyed Long Sands from the damming of the river through the summer of 2000? Apparently, none of them had heard of littering.

    I brought my canoe and kayak to the Rt 25 public launch several times since the house was sold. The launch should be a great asset. But from the looks of the OLA newsletter, it hasn’t done Long Sands any favors.

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  5. M and M 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    Timely article and comments. We were over around Ling Sands Sat and lots of boats and people on the beach. Agree with many of the ideas here.

    Limit the number of drop ins to x number a day. Charge a daily fee. Not $25 more like $150. A $25 fine what a joke. Make it $250. The other comments are spot on the drop ims have no investment of the lake that can be addressed.

    And boy did I see the “I don’t care about your rules” all summer. Boaters drive like nitwits Think I saw Marine Patrol maybe 8-10 times. This continues the lake and our property values will start to take a hit from overuse and abuse.

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  6. Richard Lover 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    I am totally in disbelief after reading this article. I remember all of the stakeholder meetings where all parties met for the first time and were told by Don Kent, who was the state official tasked with dealing with the issue. Don looked us all in the eye and said that people we’re going to have to work together to solve this issue and everyone is NOT going to get everything they want. Don had the respect and admiration of every group there. We all worked together, listened to others concerns and treated them with respect.
    From meeting one it was said and made clear to the state that no matter what was devised for rules or mandated by the state that it would have to be a duel responsibility of the boating community and the state itself for the implementation and enforcement of them. From day one, the state fell short on providing the necessary manpower to uphold their part. It was always that they were just too understaffed and limited by budget constraints. I worked with and for this group for along with the various conservation groups in the local area for the last 20 plus years and made many friends. I did not own property on the lake and had to use the public boat launch on the Pine river. My wife and I were regulars going to Long Sands and using the beach area when weather permitted. I talked with hundreds of people over the years explaining to them what the Natural area was and attempted to educate the on the overall benefits of the rules and why it was so important to the lake itself for future generations.
    I finally had to listen to my wife when she said that she would not go to the beach anymore because it had become to dangerous for me to talk with any more boaters about the noncompliance to the rules. “YOU ARE NOT THE BEACH POLICE” that should be handled by the state ! We came here to relax and enjoy our day with friends, not to babysit for the state.
    I resigned from the OLNA volunteer committee 2 years ago……tired of being berated by the same people I had volunteered to represent 20 years ago. My name is Richard Lover and I wish David Smith and his group all the best and if the state does close the beach area, the boaters have no one to blame but them selves!!!!!!! Then I will wait and see just how the State enforces this one!

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  7. Jrm 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    Credit Card Captains or CCC. No respect for others but demand respect

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  8. John Bent 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    There is little doubt that a major contributor to the beach trespassing problem is the boat launch on Rt 25 which is managed by the forest service. When the forest service representative came to town hall to present the plan and get feedback a few of us property owners were at the presentation and listened to the promises made. Aside from the 22 designated parking spaces, nothing else was implemented to plan. Instead of limiting parking to the 22 spots, they widened the access road and put up signs designating it as parking on both sides of the access road. When space was requested to put a boat inspection area on the access road they said the access road had to be vacant. We asked about safety concerns when boaters parked on Rt 25 and were assured that no parking would be allowed.
    When I asked what the cost estimate to build the ramp would be they said the last similar ramp had been 1.2 million dollars but not to worry about the cost we get 97 percent of the money from federal tax. The last time I checked I was paying federal taxes.
    There is no doubt that the lake property owners are a large part of the lake and beach quality problem on Lake Ossipee but influx of visitors must be better controlled.
    I have been on the lake for 73 years now and have watched the State of NH do almost nothing to manage it.

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  9. Robert Gendreau 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    It is Unbelievable that some people cannot follow simple rules, they ruin a lot of things for the rest of of us that do things right!

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  10. Robert Gendreau 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    Parking on Rt 25 should be banned, put up signs, no parking, $250 Fine and A Tow Zone!!!

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  11. Steve Foley 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    It’s time Marine Patrol have jurisdiction over any such protected property, accessed only by boat, for 50’ inland. And this authority determined by need. But of course, hiring more Officers is key.
    Let’s be sure not to practice, “the entire class is punished because little Johnny…”
    Grade school resolution would only serve to increase the very issues we wish to curb.
    Thank you, OLA for helping protect our lake and offering means to see the light rise and set on our Gift, Ossipee Lake.

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  12. O Lake family 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    Good idea, but Marine Patrol is not also “beach patrol” and they frankly don’t even want to get involved – they’d have to park someone there all day every day.

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  13. gloria Villari 7 months ago September 12, 2023

    Ossipee has become the Wild Wild West for boaters and day trippers.

    Fireworks anytime/anywhere!
    Parking, drinking, peeing, loud partying anytime/anywhere!
    Play your music as loud as possible at 3AM (Pusha-T’s “Trouble on My Mind” is very catchy at that hour) and cruise at top speed through the channels!

    Lighten-up, we are told, it’s people on vacation just trying to have a good time.

    The problem is that our reputation is building, our reputation for having no rules and no regulations, and even if we do have rules, we have no enforcement.

    It is time to consider hiring our own Marine and Forest Service Patrols and incentivize them with a percentage from the tickets that they issue. We need a consistent presence from both of these teams and we need to pay them accordingly. We can’t afford to just sit back, complain to the state, and watch as our beautiful natural resource is abused and slowly destroyed. We have to do something!

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  14. Longtime Lake Owner 7 months ago September 14, 2023

    My family has been on the lake since the 50s and I’ve been observing the behavior of people at the lake my entire life. I think it’s easy to blame the 25 ramp, but I think that’s a small percentage of the overall problem.

    “There’s a new type of boater out there. They don’t care, they don’t listen. Their attitude is that no one is going to tell me what to do. That’s a law enforcement issue, not something for us to fix.” This statement says it perfectly. I’ve encountered really aggressive, entitled, misogynistic reactions the few times I’ve said things over the years. But boater behaviors is a separate topic.

    I’ve been seeing people repeatedly blaming the 25 ramp. However, I think that is a tiny percentage of the overall problem.

    Let’s not forget the other contributing factors, including, but not limited to: the doubling in size of Westward Shores (easy access to Long Sands), influx of short-term rentals (some of them going for $$$$ thus resulting in multiple families per rental), numerous campgrounds, marinas with larger allotments of dock space than ever before, a huge increase in rental boats (marina and privately owned – at least Lakefront Landing labels theirs), a real estate boom, and politics feeding selfish ‘live free or die’ attitudes.

    I went to Long Sands twice this year (not enjoyable to go to these places anymore) and on weekdays and personally witnessed people playing beach games directly in front of a no trespassing sign, multiple dogs on the beach, and people walking all along the restricted shoreline.

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  15. tj236 7 months ago September 15, 2023

    “I’ve been seeing people repeatedly blaming the 25 ramp. However, I think that is a tiny percentage of the overall problem.”

    Respectfully you might be somewhat naive to the causes of overcrowding on the lake. Have you seen the traffic and overflow parking at the 25 ramp? Indeed, there has been an increase in boat rentals at Goodhue but that number pales in comparison to the number of drop-in boats being launched all around the lake.

    The state and town pushed for greater accessibility to the lake. Well, they got it and along with that the property owners now enjoy more trash/pollution, milfoil, reckless disrespectful irresponsible boaters, and overcrowding.

    Solutions? Yes, charge significant launch fee’s. Levy heavy fines to those who don’t boat lawfully and don’t follow environmental regulations. Then only use that money to remedy damage to the lake/shoreline.
    And…stop letting politicians and bureaucrats enact policies that cause more harm than good…

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  16. Helen 6 months ago October 2, 2023

    I have been a homeowner on Ossippe lake for 56 years. I am appalled at how these day trippers come to the lake and have no regard for the people that pay taxes on property around the lake. Yes the lake is free but they don’t respect the people and property of who live there. Shut down Rt 25 access to the lake….or if you want to put your boat in then it should be a $150 bucks for the day. Where are all these people going to the bathroom who stay on the lake all day. The sand bar is full, long sands is full, now they are parking in front of people’s homes with loud music, foul language and no bathroom except to go in the lake. Homeowners who pay big taxes should be forming an association so that this stops. Why are we putting up with this on our. Beautiful Lake!!!!!!!

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