Wild Goose Boat Access Site:
Lake Sunapee, NH

Wild Goose Boat Access Site

Located in the southern end of the lake, roughly .8 miles from Newbury Harbor, the Wild Goose boat access site will offer:

  • Public boat access to Lake Sunapee, free of charge, including parking for vehicles and trailers, for all sizes of boats
  • Suitable for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Motorized and non-motorized use (a double, concrete boat ramp with floating dock and a separate access for smaller "cartop" craft)
  • 31 trailered parking spaces and 11 car spaces
  • Environmentally friendly site design
  • No boater/swimmer conflicts
  • Requires very limited dredging
  • Traffic pattern approved by NHDOT

Related news:

Wetland Permit Approved for Wild Goose Boat Access Site on Lake Sunapee - 07/29/09: The Department of Environmental Services (DES) Wetlands Bureau approved N.H. Fish and Game's wetland permit application for construction of a new boat access facility at the Wild Goose site, the third and final permit required for the project.  An Alteration of Terrain Permit and a Shoreland Permit were previously approved.

"We’ve been involved in the public process of trying to develop the site all these years. The Public Water Access Advisory Board voted unanimously in 2004 to move forward on developing the site as a full public boat access facility, and that remains the Board’s position.  The land for the Wild Goose site was bought specifically to put in a boat ramp to allow the general public of New Hampshire to have access to one of the largest and most popular lakes in the state. Sporting and fishing groups feel the public's access rights have been frustrated by the lack of progress on developing this project.” -- Thomas Quarles, Chairman, Public Water Access Advisory Board
“I virtually grew up on the lake; I have fished and explored every corner of it.  I wholeheartedly support the Wild Goose access site. The sportsmen and boaters of Sullivan County are very much in favor of this project.  There’s a tremendous need for reasonable, convenient access to Lake Sunapee. Over the last ten years, the existing access has become more problematic, as parking has gotten more limited, or further and further away from this wonderful public body of water.” -- N.H. Fish and Game Commissioner Tom Hubert, who represents Sullivan County, and has had a family cottage on Lake Sunapee since 1973.
"The Wild Goose Access Site project at Lake Sunapee has been in the works for 19 years.  It is important for the public to have safe, adequate access to New Hampshire's sixth largest lake. Current access is not adequate.  Our goal is to fulfill our responsibility to not discriminate against those who are not otherwise able to access Lake Sunapee.  We plan to build an attractive, safe, free, user-friendly facility that will be an asset for the state." -- Glenn Normandeau, Executive Director, N.H. Fish and Game Department

House Bill 45

In May 2009, the NH Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee amended House Bill 45 (a drinking water bill), adding in provisions related to the Wild Goose access site proposal, and sent it forward to the full Senate.  The committee had approved a portion of a proposed amendment that would establish a study committee to "review the need and costs related to the proposal of the fish and game department to construct a public boat ramp on the former Wild Goose property on Lake Sunapee."

On June 3, 2009, the full Senate voted 13 to 11 to support the Committee's recommendation to amend HB 45 to establish a study committee.

On June 17, 2009, a Conference Committee met to discuss the Senate amendment to HB 45. A Legislative Conference Committee Report of June 18, 2009, recommended the filing of House Bill 45 as passed by the House. This means it did not include the amendment added by the Senate establishing a study committee to review New Hampshire Fish and Game's proposed Wild Goose Boat Access Site on Lake Sunapee.

Printable Wild Goose access project fact sheet (pdf, 1.2 MB)

Free, safe, user-friendly public access

Fish and Game's goal is to build a free, safe, user-friendly public access site at Wild Goose for all users.

New Hampshire's waters are owned by the public. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's legal authority and responsibility is to provide access for all people to all "great ponds" - lakes and ponds 10 acres or larger in area. Fish and Game has pursued the Wild Goose access site for 19 years to serve that public - to fulfill our responsibility of being inclusive of everyone, and to not discriminate against those who are not otherwise able to access Lake Sunapee, the 6th largest lake in the state.

Efforts to provide public boating access at the Wild Goose site began in 1990, when the Land Conservation Investment Program (LCIP) purchased the 133-acre tract on Lake Sunapee in Newbury at a foreclosure auction for $603,614.

The parcel includes a 3.3-acre lakefront site.  It was given to the N.H. Fish and Game Department to manage, with the understanding that it would be developed into the primary public boat access to one of the state's largest lakes.

Wild Goose Access Site:
Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to jump down to the answer:

Why is Fish and Game developing the Wild Goose boat access site?

New Hampshire's Statewide Public Boat Access Program represents the public's diverse needs for water recreation opportunities, and was established in 1993 per state statute (RSA 233). The goal and legal authority and responsibility of th

e program is "the acquisition, construction, refurbishment, maintenance, and operation of new and existing public boat access areas." Click here to learn more about how boating access sites are developed.

The access site at Wild Goose is needed because current boat access at Lake Sunapee is not adequate, especially for those who are not town residents.

What process guides public access projects in New Hampshire?

The state has a Public Water Access Advisory Board (PWAAB), which advises, monitors and coordinates state agency public access efforts, including the Statewide Public Access Program, for the public’s benefit. The Board is comprised of 19 members representing the N.H. departments of Resources and Economic Development, Environmental Services, Transportation,
Safety, Fish and Game, and the Office of State Planning; two Senators; two House members; and various public interests. In 2004 PWAAB reconfirmed their vote to develop the Wild Goose site. Click here to learn more about PWAAB.

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Have alternatives to the Wild Goose site been considered?

Fish and Game has reviewed alternatives to the proposed access project with the local community for years. No fewer than 12 sites have been considered but dismissed as unsuitable for various reasons. These include Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach, Newbury Town Beach, the existing Burkehaven site, Herrick Cove, and several private properties, as well as other state and federal government-owned properties.

The existing trailered lake access sites have significant limitations:

1. Georges Mills - Six trailered parking spots for residents only. Ramp in poor condition, making it suitable for small boats only.

2. Sunapee Harbor - Trailered access. Trailered vehicle parking is limited. Pedestrian safety, long waits and traffic congestion are among the concerns.

3. Burkehaven - Small boats only, very shallow ramp with boulders. Steep, winding access road; very limited parking.

4. Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach - Limited to smaller boats as it is located in a narrow, shallow channel. $10 launch fee for motorized boats. Limited open hours.

5. Blodgett Landing - Small boats only. Shallow ramp in disrepair; boulders. Three trailered parking spaces.

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What about the State Beach?

Many have suggested that the existing Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach could accommodate increased boat-access facilities. However, alternatives analysis found the Wild Goose site preferable to the beach option for a variety of reasons.

  • There are concerns about developing an additional separate boating access road within the state park and potential boater/swimmer conflicts.
  • With state park patronage in New Hampshire growing at about 8 percent per year, and the State Beach serving as the public beach for thousands of swimmers from surrounding communities, it was not considered advisable or safe to combine the proposed boat launch with the only public beach in the area.
  • From an environmental point of view, the project on that site would require an extreme amount of dredging, which would likely adversely impact important fisheries habitat and spawning activity; also, because of water levels and patterns, the dredging might not "last" for very long before the area was filled in again by drifting sand.
  • In addition, the Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach plan calls for using Jersey barriers to divide its access road and chain link fence to separate the areas, making this alternative less aesthetically pleasing than the proposed Wild Goose site.
  • The gate to the existing boat launch opens at 10 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends, whereas many boaters choose to be on the water in the early morning.
  • The state does not own both sides of the channel we would be impacting private land ownerships.
  • Rainbow smelt, an important resource, utilize the stream for spawning and could be impacted if dredging negatively affects the flow pattern.

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What is Fish and Game doing to ensure that the Lake Sunapee's water quality is protected as Wild Goose is developed?

The health of the Lake Sunapee ecosystem is a top priority. Planning for the Wild Goose site has been done thoughtfully and carefully, with the best science in mind and the best environmental technologies available.

The Wetlands Permit application for Wild Goose (approved July 2009) describes how the project will safeguard the water quality of Lake Sunapee. These include:

  • The use of pervious pavement, bioretention areas and other low-impact development techniques to minimize impacts from runoff.
  • No fertilizers or biocides will be used on the Wild Goose site.
  • Fish and Game staff followed all guidelines from the Department of Environmental Services during the design phase, resulting in DES's approval of shoreland and alteration of terrain permits for the Wild Goose site.  Fish and Game also worked with DES on the wetlands permit application to ensure that the proposal meets all applicable standards.

Pollutant loading analysis shows that the site's low impact design and state of the art stormwater treatment systems result in a net decrease in post-development loads over pre-development loads of pollutants. Surface runoff into Lake Sunapee will be nearly eliminated from Wild Goose, and the post-construction ability of the site to absorb and filter stormwater will be dramatically increased. In fact, the Wild Goose project could be a model for future development projects in the Lake Sunapee watershed, because of its minimization of primary pollutant sources and its adherence to strategies suggested in the "Management Plan for the Lake Sunapee Watershed," including Low Impact Design principles.

The greatest threats to Lake Sunapee's water quality (as indicated in the Management Plan for the Lake Sunapee Watershed) continue to be:

  • the pollutants generated from sanding/salting of Town and State Roads around the lake
  • uncontrolled stormwater runoff through private lakefront properties, eroding soils and carrying phosphorous from lawn fertilizers
  • e-coli from failed private septic systems and pet waste

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What sort of lighting will the site have?

The Wild Goose access site will use programmable "downlights" - to light the site, not the sky. The facility lights will come on at dusk; later in the night, half of the lights will go off.  The light at this point will be sufficient to deter vandalism, to allow Fish and Game Law Enforcement to patrol the site, and to allow emergency vehicles to use the site. The lights will automatically shut off at dawn.

Who will pay for the Wild Goose site?

  • State funds: a portion of the $5 NH boat registration surcharge.
  • Federal funds: come from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration program, which is funded by an excise tax on fishing equipment and motorboat fuels (click here for more information on this program). Fifteen percent of all Sport Fish monies received by Fish and Game are dedicated to motorized boat access creation.

Does the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act (CPSA) affect Fish and Game's plans for the Wild Goose site?

The NH Department of Environmental Services has determined, by granting a Shoreland Permit to the Wild Goose project, that the project is "consistent with the purposes of this chapter and other state law."

RSA 483-B:9 IV-b of the CSPA establishes that "...public water access facilities including boat ramps shall be permitted by the commissioner as necessary and consistent with the purposes of this chapter and other state law."

Fish and Game legally acquired CSPA permit #2008-02755 in January 2009. 

Fish and Game is in full compliance with all environmental regulations and permitting processes applicable to this project.  The Department has gone above and beyond what's required by using low-impact design principles and materials, to address the concerns of the Management Plan for the Lake Sunapee Watershed.

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How will site security be handled?

As with Fish and Game's other major boat launch sites, Fish and Game law enforcement will look to work with local officials to maintain site security. The regular presence of Fish and Game Conservation Officers, maintenance personnel, and lake hosts is expected to have a positive effect at the facility, as it has at other facilities, discouraging nuisance behaviors and encouraging appropriate family use. A kiosk will contain materials about regulations and other useful information.

Will there be any changes to the entrance and exit from the site?

Fish and Game has worked, and will continue to work, closely with the N.H. Department of Transportation to provide safe roadway access to the site. 

As part of the site development, there will be upgrades and maintenance to Birch Grove Road to accommodate 2-way traffic on Route 103. Minor upgrades will be required to tie the new access facility driveway pavement into Birch Grove Road; work is limited to the immediate vicinity of the new driveway. These repair costs are conservatively estimated to be less than $50,000, and the funds will come from the same source as for the site itself.

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Are there any endangered plants or animals on the Wild Goose site?

The data for the site have been examined by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau, and there are no exemplary plant communities nor wildlife species of concern on the site.

What would the site look like?

An aerial photograph of the Wild Goose property - existing conditions
site rendering
A computer-generated illustration of the proposed Wild Goose access site
A photograph of the Wild Goose property from the water - existing conditions
site rendering
A computer-generated illustration of the proposed Wild Goose access site from the water; note how the buffer of vegetation screens the parking lot from view

Is there a site plan I can look at?

Sure - click on the thumbnail image below to download a PDF of the site plan (large file - 4.9 MB)

wild goose

A Recreational Opportunity Afforded to the Public by Law

The Wild Goose parcel was bought 19 years ago for the purpose of constructing a public boating access
site on the sixth largest lake in New Hampshire.

  • It is needed because existing access is not adequate.
  • The project has been extensively studied.
  • It is recommended by the N.H. Public Water Access Advisory Board.
  • An environmentally responsible design has been proposed.
  • Without the Wild Goose Boat Access Site, the public will lose access to a recreational opportunity afforded to them by law.

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