Ryan Nugent is a prudent boat owner.
Step on board his 22-foot bow rider, and the first thing he does is point out the fire extinguisher and life jackets.
“My wife makes fun of me, ” he admitted. “I’m very cautious about everything I do with the vessel. ”
Nugent, an Air Force veteran and commercial airline pilot, spends his summers boating on Lake Sunapee, in the western part of the state. Along with his spouse and three children, he likes to scoot across the big open heart of the water and into Jobs Creek. It’s a finger off the main part of the lake, narrow like a canal, accessible in the northwest corner.
“We’re back here just to relax, get out of the particular wind a little bit, let the kids swim, ” this individual said. “And then we are usually here for a couple of hours and then we leave. ”
Lake Sunapee is one of New Hampshire’s jewels: an 8-mile long postcard perfect body of water that attracts celebrity homeowners like Steven Tyler and Ken Burns, and local families on weekends. But there’s tension right now at Sunapee involving this sliver of water that Nugent and other boaters favor for its calm drinking water and cove-like swimming area.
Lakefront home owners on Jobs Creek say a surge in motorboat traffic in the past few years is bad for the environment and public safety. This summer, they submitted a petition asking the state, which owns and oversees the particular lake, to prohibit rafting— when multiple boats tie up together, a common way for multiple boaters to socialize — as well as restrict single boats from dropping anchor within 150-feet of shoreline. If approved, the restrictions would apply only down at the end of the creek, where the water widens to form a pond within the broader river.
Needless to say, boaters like Ryan Nugent weren’t happy with the petition.
“To be here, after years of military service and what not, plus bring my family right here and have my kids swimming in the water and harmlessly enjoying an awesome lake, to be categorized as loitering is insanely offensive, ” he said.
So-called “No Rafting” zones were first introduced in New Hampshire in the 1980s and are currently only found on three bodies of water. That includes two other small sections of Lake Sunapee and more than 15 designated zones on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The proposed Jobs Creek zone is dividing the community, an example of the tension that often arises when you have an attractive general public resource—a lake, a trailhead, a beach—and competing visions of how it should be used.
For 125 years, the particular Lake Sunapee Protective Association, a non-profit now led by Elizabeth Harper, has been trying to balance these concerns. People love this lake, people want to come use the lake, swim in it, sail on it, she stated, but that traffic also threatens it.
“It’s an incredibly important resource, but because there is such heavy use of the resource, it leads to problems, ” Harper said. “It leads to challenges in terms of water quality and trying to maintain that will ecological integrity. ”
Lake Sunapee, formed 12, 000 years ago by glaciers and frequented by water lovers seemingly ever since, is healthy, according to Harper. Her group isn’t taking the position on the petition, but it is cautious about the particular impact of all the boat traffic in Jobs Creek.
“When the anchors go down into the sediment, that’s bringing up sediment to the surface, disrupting sediment in a way that can release phosphorus which is a concern with regard to algal blooms, cyanobacterial blooms, ” she said. “And we also know that this influences the plant life that is on the particular bottom of the lake. ”
She notes that fertilizer runoff through people insistent on having green lawns can furthermore harm the lake. Pretty much any time humans come into contact with a body associated with water, there are impacts.
The reason Jobs Creek is coming to a head right now, though, appears to be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been very good for boating, ” mentioned David Kennedy with the advocacy group BoatUS.
A surge within boat ownership and people spending more time outdoors has led to frictions across the U. S., including in Georgia, Florida, plus Sausalito, Calif. His group opposes the proposed no rafting ordinance on Sunapee, arguing that even apparently limited restrictions on ship use can morph in to “death by a thousand cuts. ”
“Well, we are just going to cut it out here, and just here. And then all of a sudden there is nowhere to go, ” Kennedy said.
Homeowners on Jobs Creek presented a different set of facts during a public comment hearing last month inside Sunapee Town Hall.
William Hack, who started the petition and owns a home facing the affected cove, declined an interview regarding this story. He told the hearing officer that there were environmental concerns with the increased boat traffic, while another supporter, Dave Howland, painted a good intimate picture of what it’s like to watch and hear boaters from shore.
“They anchor for four hours, drinking beer. They need to relieve themselves, and they do, ” he said.
There were also issues raised about safety, with one neighbor saying she was fearful of children swimming around anchored vessels.
But last week, New Hampshire Department of Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn rejected the petition, ruling in the 16-page opinion that there wasn’t enough evidence to impose boating restriction within the creek. That decision could still be appealed, yet for now at least, boaters can still visit Work Creek, tie up plus drop anchor.
That includes Ryan Nugent.
“COVID brought people like myself and my family to add to the volume, ” he said. “But I think you can add towards the volume and still participate responsibly, plus not damage it. ”