Ossipee—February 25, 2016—One of the area’s largest business expansions in years will take place on Ossipee Lake if state and local officials approve applications filed by Northgate Ossipee LLC, which purchased Westward Shores Campground on December 21.
The Westward Shores property has been in operation since the 1940s and comprises more than 300 acres. It has waterfront on the northern bank of the Bearcamp River and incorporates a large stretch of the western shoreline of the big lake. In addition to the 144-slip marina and 258-site campground, the purchase included nine undeveloped abutting lots and a three-bedroom home and land on what is known as The Peninsula.
The expansion, which will likely double current potential capacity, is being planned in three delineated areas, all of which will see new campsites with gravel pads for RV and car parking. The Pond Road area development will consist of 246 campsites, two bathhouses, an indoor pool, and a pavilion. Plans for The Peninsula include razing the existing house and garage and adding 18 campsites. The Bearcamp River site will see 66 new campsites, a bathhouse, and a pavilion. [View the plan here].
State and Local Approvals
The entire property has wetlands and is within a flood hazard area, which means Northgate’s plans are contingent on receiving a favorable response from state and local environmental and planning officials.
In a phone call with Ossipee Lake Alliance, Greta Bossenbroek, the company’s regional operations manager, said most of the required applications and plans have been filed, and some have already been modified to meet legal and environmental requirements. Bossenbroek said the business might also seek state and local approvals to increase the number of boat slips at the marina and expand food and grocery operations at the store. Such applications have not yet been filed, however.
A Michigan Company
Northgate Ossipee is part of Northgate Resorts LLC, a Michigan-based company that operates six family-oriented campgrounds. Its website mission statement says the company has a commitment to camper satisfaction, noting that doing so will create “value for the Company and make a difference in our guests’ lives.”
Northgate’s properties range from Texas to Virginia to New York and operate under the franchised “Yogi Bear Jellystone Park” brand. Westward Shores, however, will not use that brand, according to Bossenbroek. She said Northgate is prepared to “invest millions” to ensure that Westward Shores is “well maintained and meets the high standards” of the company’s other properties.
She said the planned improvements and expansion will help drive business growth in the area, adding that she hopes to work with local businesses and vendors toward that goal. Meeting with local environmental and conservation groups to answer their questions is also on her to-do list, she told the Alliance.
Westward Shores has a colorful recent past. The previous owner, Charlie Smith, made news in June 2009 after campground residents reported he was selling lots as quasi-condo units without required state and local approvals. His sales scheme, launched in April that year, offered long-time campers “introductory price levels” from $59,500 for a wooded lot to $178,500 for a waterfront lot. Prospective buyers were encouraged to “lock in discounted prices” by signing a purchase intent agreement by June 1 and making a $500 deposit.
After officials stepped in, Smith quickly applied for the required state and local approvals and returned the checks of some 30 prospective buyers. But not before campers launched a torrent of blistering public comments on social media, claiming the campground owner was, among other things, tolerating rowdy behavior on the premises and allowing raw sewage to seep from overflowing septic systems.
Claiming access to inside information, a prolific social media poster called “Westy” said the campground was financially underwater and the lot sales had been hastily arranged to prevent creditors from taking over. Smith denied the allegation, but a week later the property was listed in a foreclosure auction advertisement in the Boston Globe. Months of legal wrangling ensued, with the campground repeatedly scheduled for foreclosure and rescued at the last minute before Smith’s creditors finally seized the property.
Charlie Smith died in Ossipee in 2012.