Freedom — June 21, 2008 — If the public cooperates, Ossipee Lake Natural Area can accommodate recreation and conservation, according to DRED’s preferred management plan for the 400-acre State-owned site, one of Ossipee Lake’s largest remaining undeveloped areas.
The 30-page plan, one of three alternatives DRED considered, would permit public access to 1,500 feet of shoreline for recreation and education, while the remainder of the shoreline would be reserved for the protection and conservation of the property’s natural and historic resources, which the report called “non-renewable, fragile and rare.” Boats could not be pulled onto the shore anywhere on the property.
If the plan is enacted in July as expected, the open and closed areas of the Natural Area will be the same as the agency mandated on an interim basis last August. The open portion would begin at the end of the 200 ft. buffer with the Long Sands residential neighborhood and extend to the large pine tree known as Lone Pine. The swampy fen/bog interior of the property would be closed, and access to the shoreline from Route 25 would not be developed.
The management plan, which was released on June 18, is the result of meetings by a State Agency Working Group consisting of representatives from DRED’s Divisions of Forests and Lands and Parks and Recreation; the Department of Environmental Services’ Lakes Management and Protection Program; the Department of Safety’s Marine Patrol Division; and the Historical Resources Division of the New Hampshire Department of Cultural Resources.
The Working Group examined options ranging from closing all of the shoreline to opening all of it, and in the end settled on a balance between the two. DRED officials said that the success of the plan will require “changes in public behavior and compliance” with State rules through education and enforcement, noting that “education provides for stakeholder awareness and enforcement ensures compliance of recalcitrant individuals.”
The agency said it will develop programs to monitor and measure the plan’s success, and will encourage use of the property for education to “study rare plants and exemplary natural communities and the region’s pre-historical and native cultures.”
DRED will hold a public meeting at Ossipee Town Hall on June 27 to detail the plan and hear questions and comments, after which the plan will be put into effect.
Although DRED has studied Ossipee Lake Natural Area since it was purchased from land developers in 1969, the State Agency Working Group report is the first time it has publicly detailed the full extent of the damage caused by the lack of a management plan for the property.
Saying that rare plants and exemplary natural communities historically occupied the entire shoreline, the report concludes that “Landing boats onshore, trampling of vegetation, digging in the sand, fires and other beachgoer activities have significantly contributed to the degradation of natural communities and the extirpation [eradication] of plant species.”
The report cites trash, human feces and debris, threats to water quality, and disturbances caused by illegal parties, camping and bonfires.
The report also acknowledges for the first time that historical resources, which range from 500 to 11,000 years old, exist not only throughout the Natural Area and the shoreline but also in the water, saying that “the potential damage to historical resources from public use is significant.”
Boating and Rafting
Pointing to the large number of people congregating in one place, the plan said there is a potential for swimmers to be injured by boats moving in and out of the area. While the plan does not impose any limitations on rafting or swimming, it says such restrictions could be imposed in the future if the Marine Patrol determines there is a danger.
DRED said Marine Patrol officers will monitor the situation this summer to determine compliance with State boating regulations in regard to headway speed and operating under the influence, among others. After a period of public education, Marine Patrol officers will also enforce the rule prohibiting use of the closed section of shoreline.
The complete DRED management plan is available on the N.H. Forests and Lands website, www.nhdfl.org. The plan and additional materials about Ossipee Lake Natural Area are also available at Ossipee Lake Alliance’s two websites, www.ossipeelake.org and www.OLNA.info.