Sununu says Wild Goose boat ramp is cooked

New Hampshire Union Leader
July 31. 2017 8:07PM
For more than 25 years, state Fish and Game officials have pursued converting this site on Lake Sunapee into a boat ramp. Gov. Chris Sununu has put an end to those plans. (UNION LEADER FILE)

NEWBURY — For 26 years, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department doggedly pursued converting a 3.3-acre, dilapidated waterfront parcel into the only state-controlled, free-to-the-public, access point to launch boats onto Lake Sunapee.

The site of what once was the Wild Goose Lodges and Motel was aptly coined since the town of Sunapee and Mount Sunapee share their name, which comes from the Algonquian words “suna” meaning “goose,” and “apee,” meaning “lake,”

On Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu decided that putting a boat ramp on the “Wild Goose” site property was the real meaning of a wild goose chase.

“We have heard the concerns of the residents of Newbury, Sunapee, and the surrounding towns. Enough is enough,” Sununu said in a statement.

”This project has been debated for the last twenty years and it is time to put an end to this flawed plan. Public access to our state’s waterways is important and essential, and we will work with the residents of the area to find a better solution to ensure greater public access.”

Sununu’s action is to remove from the Executive Council agenda the extension of a wetlands permit Fish and Game received for the project. Once that permit expires, the project goes back to square one and is effectively dead.

State Rep. Dan Wolf, R-Newbury, credited Sununu with breaking the cycle of bureaucratic thinking that had this plan attracting the backing of four Fish and Game directors and five governors.

“It became a monetarily wasteful thing, an environmental mistake, a public safety threat. I think everybody listened up,” Wolf said. “This had been going on for nearly 27 years. If it was so good a project why didn’t it get done 15 years ago? Because it was the wrong place for this.”

Rep. Karen Ebel, D-New London, who also represents Newbury, said it was the wrong spot for many reasons.

“There is nothing I have ever been involved in that has been uniformly opposed on so many levels,” Ebel said.

Reps. Wolf and Ebel agree the fight isn’t over and that the campaign must not only continue but succeed in finding an alternative, state-controlled boat access ramp for Lake Sunapee.

“We kept hearing, ‘Well, it’s the rich people on Lake Sunapee. They’ve got theirs and they don’t want any more public access to the water,” Wolf said. “Trust me, we are going to prove that statement wrong.”

1990 purchase

In 1990, the state Land and Conservation Investment Program acquired 133 acres at a foreclosure auction bargain price, transferring 130 acres of it for the Department of Resources and Economic Development to add to Sunapee state park. The rest of the parcel included a dozen waterfront cabins, an eight-room motel, a recreation hall, waterfront docks and a beach.

Just last February, Sununu himself had forwarded Fish and Game’s $2.1 million bond to complete this project and put it into the two-year capital budget that he proposed,

Rep. Ebel serves on the House Public Works and Highways Committee yet she couldn’t stop that panel and ultimately the House from endorsing this plan to install 31 trailer parking spots and eight spots for car-top boats at Wild Goose, all to use a proposed twin-boat ramp.

Then the state Senate took up the matter. Finance Chairman Gary Daniels, R-Milford, said he got 50 to 60 letters from residents opposing the project with only three in favor.

At that time, Daniels pointed out there were already five, non-state owned properties where boats could get access onto Lake Sunapee.

Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau had told the Legislature that this project had secured all permits and withstood all appeals. In fact, Fish and Game had won two different decisions from the New Hampshire Supreme Court over local opposition to Wild Goose.

And Normandeau had reminded lawmakers that according to his agency, other boat access sites weren’t viable — including the state beach Daniels advocated.

But June Fichter, executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, said Sununu and GOP legislative leaders this year finally agreed there were mounting and fatal problems with Wild Goose.

They could see that even improving traffic patterns onto Route 103 would still leave a dangerous entry and access point to what was where the second-highest number of crashes in town occurred every year, she said.

Constructing the ramp on this hilly spot would require blasting, digging down 13 feet and the removal of at least 600, double-axle, dump truck loads of dirt, Fichter continued.

“The site was small, the project was really big, the site sloped and environmentally would have done a lot of damage,” Fichter said.

The Newbury Board of Selectmen wrote lawmakers May 1 they couldn’t support the plan either.

“We ... do not oppose additional public access to Lake Sunapee but have serious concerns about the scope and impacts of the proposal,” they wrote the Senate. “We need a boat launch that is safe and financially affordable for the state and the town of Newbury.”

OutdoorsState GovernmentDartmouth-Lake SunapeeNewburySunapee

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