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About 50 Middleton residents met in the Old Town Hall to discuss issues and potential solutions during the first Sunrise Lake Summit Saturday. Resident John Mullen, right, organized the meeting to address dangers of invasive, exotic aquatic plants – like milfoil – along with public access and dealing with geese and ducks on the lake. Local volunteers already keeping an eye on milfoil, wildlife and fast-moving boats. (John Quinn/Union Leader)

Sunrise Lake

Middleton residents want to keep Sunrise Lake beautiful for all

MIDDLETON — Like most waterways in the state, Sunrise Lake has a special place in the hearts of residents who live around, swim on and ride along its welcoming waves.

To keep the water clean, clear and safe, about 50 residents — both seasonal and full-time — and local officials spent two hours talking about issues at the first Sunrise Lake Summit on Saturday.

John Mullen, a former selectman and state representative who lives along Shore Drive, said the threat of milfoil taking over the lake was the biggest reason for calling the meeting.

“We all utilize the lake and the lake is a resource to the town,” Mullen said, adding most people agree Sunrise Lake is in good shape.

Mullen, who also serves as invasive species coordinator for the Conservation Commission, said he helped restart the “weed watcher” program, made up of residents who used boats, canoes and kayaks to scour the lake for invasive plants.

“This year, we had quite an infestation (of milfoil) come back,” Mullen said, adding residents at town meeting appropriated funds to help fight the spread of the invasive, exotic aquatic plant.

Mullen said the state used herbicide to treat about 20 acres of the 247-acre lake in June. He added divers pulled 410 gallons of wilted milfoil from the lake’s bottom the following month.

Last week, Mullen and an intern from the state Department of Environmental Services used global positioning systems to pinpoint areas – especially in the coves and near stream outlets — where milfoil is spreading. Divers will return to those areas later this month to focus on the trouble spots, according to Mullen.

As the town owns the beach and public boat launch along Route 153, residents agreed an unlocked chain or gate and updated signs could serve as a mechanism to remind boaters to remove plants from their trailers and watercraft before using the lake.

Some residents felt it would be better to be inclusive – and ask for help – rather than seeming restrictive and turn people off altogether. Others felt it was appropriate to start asking boaters – like beach goers – to ask for a free permit to help track usage, which is done in some other communities.

Mullen said residents and members of the lake associations must also do their part to encourage their relatives, friends and neighbors to keep an eye out for milfoil before enjoying the lake.

“We want to be friendly neighbors, but we want to protect the lake,” Mullen said, adding “the water belongs to everybody.”

As for the ducks and Canada geese which nest and swim around the lake, Mullen also said residents should remind their neighbors not to feed the birds as their droppings can affect water quality.

Selectman John Hotchkiss, who also serves as a commissioner with the Sunrise Lake Village District, said lake officials must adjust to a change in law which prevents the state’s dam bureau from maintaining private structures – like the dam on Sunrise Lake.

Hotchkiss said the state replaced one of the “breakaway” boards on the dam and officials will have to replace rotting planks when they are removed for the season.

He said the district can either use volunteers to monitor the dam or hire a company. He added the state will honor the existing contract and monitor the dam through 2014 while continuing to inspect it twice a year into the future.

Throughout the meeting, Mullen stressed how information and action is essential to protect the lake.

“New Hampshire DES has a plethora of information for those who have access to that,” Mullen said, referring residents to

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