By Ray Carbone
CONCORD – At last week’s meeting of the governor’s new Lake Sunapee Public Assess Development Commission, the 15-member group began probing the history of the 25-plus-year dispute about where to put a public launch on the state’s sixth largest lake.
The two-hour meeting began with several people testifying on behalf of the two major proposals that have been considered over the last two decades. The state-owned Wild Goose property in Newbury would be too expensive to develop and its location would create serious traffic problems in town, according to its critics. Supporters say the site has already passed several legal requirements for the required state-owned-and-operated facility, and that the proposed alternative Sunapee State Beach site is too small.
At the conclusion of the hearing held in the Legislative Office Building last Thursday, the commissioners listened to remarks made by fellow commissioner Glenn Normandeau, who is executive director of the state’s Fish & Game Department.
‘My own personal opinion is that it (turning the Sunapee State Beach into a primary boat launch) is not permit-able.’
NH Fish & Game Dept. Commissioner Glenn Normandeau
When Normandeau mentioned the estimated costs of dredging the state beach for a launch site, Chairman Neil Levesque asked if the commissioner could bring that kind of specific data to the group for review. “Get as many (related) costs as possible to this commission,” Levesque urged.
The chairman also asked Normandeau to look into the question of whether the state has a valid right-of-way on properties adjacent to the state beach property that may impact the development of a boat launch there, and the Fish & Game official said he’d comply.
Lévesque said that Gov. Chris Sununy had asked the commission to consider other possible sites that could be used for a boat launch. “Have you looked at all the (available) spots on Lake Sunapee,” he asked Normandeau.
“Unless something has come up for sale that I’m not aware of, I can’t imagine there’s anything else,” the commissioner answered.
Earlier in the meeting, June Fichter, the executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA), said that her group had previously funded a conceptual plan for developing the state beach site as an alternative to the Wild Goose property.
“I’ve never seen this plan,” said Tom Quarles, a member of the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board who is on the commission. “Why haven’t we seen that?”
Fichter said that she would “absolutely” provide the paperwork to the group. “It is more than a plan,” she explained, but the document is not a detailed proposal. While it includes “some narrative research about how various regulatory” and other relevant issues could be addressed, it doesn’t make a specific proposal.
“It’s not our place to design a full-up plan,” she told Quarles.
Normandeau gave the longest testimony of the day, reviewing several issues related to developing a suitable public boat launch. When Fish & Game first took over the Wild Goose property, the Governor’s Council indicated that it was “going to be primary boat access on Lake Sunapee,” he said. But when it appeared that the state might acquire the George’s Mill launch property in Sunapee, state officials began considering utilizing Wild Goose simply for canoes, kayaks, etc.
After Sunapee residents rejected the George’s Mill transfer, the state’s attention returned to developing the Wild Goose property.
In 2008, Normandeau said that state officials met with LSPA officials at the state beach site to review the property. The state subsequently paid for extensive research on developing the small boat launch area there into a larger facility.
“My own personal opinion is that it’s not permit-able,” the commissioner said. He explained that dredging would be “a constant maintenance” issue and that there would likely be strong opposition from abutters. (Normandeau said he thought the current state beach launch site would be best suited for canoes, kayaks, etc.)
In 2010-2011, “a raid was made” by state officials on funds that were designated for the boat ramp project and “there’s never been much talk about putting (the money) back,” Normandeau told the commission.
The commission will hold its public next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, 9 a.m., at the Legislative Office Building.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017.