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The Lake Winnipesaukee Association: Protecting the Lake and the Community

By Kelly Gallagher

Lake Winnipesaukee's residents and visitors know the scene well: crystal-clear water, tree-lined shores, and tight-knit, idyllic small towns that give off that distinct New England feeling. The region is a haven for fishermen, boaters, campers- anyone who finds comfort and refuge in the outdoors. People have many different reasons to love Lake Winnipesaukee, and this common love unites the lake's communities on one very crucial mission: the protection of this natural treasure.

It's an unfortunate truth: Lake Winnipesaukee faces a number of threats, including increasing phosphorus levels, invasive plants, and pollution. These can have a severe impact on all aspects of life in Laconia, Meredith, and other towns which rely on the lake for drinking water and flood management.

Thankfully, there is a team in place to combat these and other environmental threats to Lake Winnipesaukee. In 1978, the Lake Winnipesaukee Association (LWA) was formed to work with the communities to identify issues of concern and implement measures to protect the lake. Local planning boards, residents, and businesses are taking an active role in these efforts.

"Management to protect the lake is a complicated task, one which requires an active and informed community of residents and visitors acting as stewards for the lake," says Patricia Tarpey, executive director of the Lake Winnipesaukee Association. "Since [its inception], the LWA has been dedicated to protecting the lake's water quality and natural resources through monitoring, education, stewardship, and science-guided approaches for lake management."

As the largest lake in New Hampshire and the third-largest in New England, Lake Winnipesaukee also plays a vital role in the local and state economy. According to a 2007 study entitled What's Our Water Worth, even a perceived decrease in Lake Winnipesaukee's water quality could cost businesses millions of dollars, and cut approximately 400 jobs from the region. "Restaurants, motels, marinas, campgrounds, and ski resorts are just a few of the many industries that rely on the recreational value of Lake Winnipesaukee," says Tarpey. "Impacts to the local economy due to the degradation of water quality could have very detrimental effects."

Interested parties are encouraged to check out the information provided by Winnipesaukee Gateway, a one-stop source for a variety of lake-related information such as maps, environmental plans, water quality data, recreational opportunities, and more. The Winnipesaukee Gateway, which was created as a platform for the Lake Winnipesaukee Management Plan, also promotes actions (both community and individual) that will improve and protect the lake's water quality and promote positive environmental changes.

Protecting the lake requires the collaboration and cooperation all those who use its water. Residents, tourists, and business owners throughout Laconia, Meredith and other Lakes Region communities have a demonstrated desire to preserve the purity and vitality of the 14,000-year-old lake- a goal that is being efficiently achieved through the efforts of the LWA.

Considering its remarkable size, it's easy to think of Lake Winnipesaukee in terms of numerical facts: 274 islands, 240 miles of shoreline, a maximum depth of 180 feet, an average of 27-29 feet of visibility, and 72 miles of surface area. But these impressive statistics don't compare to the lake's immeasurable attributes: its sheer beauty, the array of available recreation, and the providence that sustains the surrounding communities. The people of the Lakes Region understand the value of the natural treasure in their backyard, and with the guidance of the LWA, they will continue work to protect the lake for future generations.

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About The Author

Kelly Gallagher studied creative writing at SUNY Oswego and Vermont College of Fine...

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