Ossipee residents narrowly voted down spending $1.2 million to create a town beach, which would have been the first on Ossipee Lake in decades.
The contentious plan drew hundreds of people to a packed special town meeting Tuesday night.
Two hundred and ninety-seven residents voted for the beach, while 171 voted no – putting the plan just shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.
The town had planned to buy a private campground with 200 feet of lakefront and road access using a million dollars in bonds, to be repaid over 20 years. The rest of the beach’s cost would have come from Ossipee’s rainy day fund.
The town’s entire budget is only about $5 million a year. But officials said building and running the beach wouldn’t have raised taxes.
It would have been limited to residents, with access granted by the dump stickers on their cars.
In public comment before the vote, residents like Wayne Marshall said they wanted to secure local access to Ossipee Lake at any cost.
“There’s just something about the moving water and the sand and the sun that touches you in a way that few other things can,” he said. “We have an opportunity here today to provide our children access to something which cannot be bought for money.”
But some users of the campground that was up for sale said they would have lost something priceless, too.
Many campers are from out of town and couldn’t vote on the beach plan, but they cheered and hugged when they heard the measure had failed. Some shed tears.
Maureen Nault says she’s been coming to the campground each summer from Haverhill, Mass., for more than a decade, and loves its family atmosphere.
“I consider Ossipee my second home, so I’m glad that we’ll be able to stay,” she said.
Other locals said the out-of-towners had been selfish in helping campaign against the measure, touting its high cost and the town’s small budget.
“I find that the people that don’t live here – that don’t have children in school here, that only enjoy the lake for two or three months a year – pretty un-American, pretty un-red, white and blue,” said selectman Sam Martin.
The town had hoped to provide year-round resident access to Ossipee Lake. Martin said she’s not sure if they’ll try again to buy land for a town beach in the future.