OSSIPEE — Two environmental groups are embarking on a campaign to ask boaters to stay out of restricted portions of the Ossipee Lake Natural Area.
Ossipee Lake Alliance, based in Freedom, and Green Mountain Conservation Group, based in Effingham, said in a statement issued Monday that the initiative is in response to the spike in boaters last year "as COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns spread across the region." The natural area is also known as Long Sands.
Dennis Gould, a longtime lake resident and conservation volunteer, was part of the state's "working group" of lake stakeholders who helped establish the property's management plan, which went into effect about 12 years ago.
He thinks the relative lack of compliance last year was the result of new boaters not understanding the rules.
"People who have rafted there for generations understand how important the honor system is to keeping part of the shoreline open," he said. "We have to reach new boaters with that message."
Those who break the rules would be subject to a fine.
The entire natural area is about 400 acres, is located on the southeast corner of the lake and runs between the water's edge and Route 25.
Starting Memorial Day, volunteers will be distributing brochures to inform boaters of the rules in the natural area and at lake boat ramps.
The brochure has a map that shows the shore area divided into three segments. In the middle is a 1,000-foot section where people may come ashore from sunrise to sunset. Those with canoes and kayaks may land on the beach. Those with motor boats have to anchor off shore. Public access is limited to the sandy beach area. Fires, dogs and glass bottles are prohibited. There are no public bathrooms.
"In 2007, the state closed the natural area and threatened to keep it closed after years of uncontrolled recreation turned it into a public nuisance," the groups stated. "Rare plants were severely damaged."
Among those plants is the hairy hudsonia, a low-growing shrub that is susceptible to being trampled.
The shoreline was "a minefield with used toilet paper," one local official memorably described it.
Officials from the Department of Resources and Economic Development, the state agency in charge of the property at the time, assembled a group of state officials, boaters, and local groups, including Green Mountain and the Alliance, to look at the options. The result was the plan, which went into effect in 2009.
"Everyone who helped develop that plan can recall how time-consuming and difficult it was to get consensus on how to balance recreation and preservation," Ossipee Lake Alliance Co-Director David Smith said. "But once we got there, we were all confident it could work."