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An autumn view of Newfound Lake and Bear Mountain. (COURTESY)

Newfound Lake groups work to protect water, area

BRISTOL — Rated as one of the top 15 small lakes in the United States, Newfound Lake is like the pretty little sister to her big sister, Lake Winnipesaukee.

Located approximately 20 miles west of Meredith, Newfound Lake was the only lake in New Hampshire selected in a poll of the best small lakes in North America, according to a U.S.A. Today poll released in late summer. The list was not numerically ranked.

&#';This is a stunning lake,&#'; said Boyd Smith, director of the Newfound Lake Region Association (NLRA). The region includes the towns of Alexandria, Bridgewater, Bristol, Hebron and Groton. The Newfound Lake watershed encompasses 63,000 acres, 83 percent of which is forested.

Thus far, 14 percent of the land is in some sort of conservation easement. Smith said the association works closely with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

&#';The reason the lake is so clean is because we're surrounded by forest lands. Basically, healthy forests are how you get clean water. Water filters through leaves and infiltrates. It doesn't tend to pick up sediment or sand,&#'; he said, adding that the water quality is good, but not as clear as it used to be.

&#';When you come up here, you'll think it's pristine and it's a hidden gem. But in the 27 years we have been monitoring water quality, we've experienced a decline. It's not as clear as it used to be, and that's usually because there's more algae, plant matter and chlorophyll,&#'; he said.

Water watchdogs

Stormwater runoff, potential increase in phosphorous levels and invasive milfoil are all potential threats to Newfound Lake quality.

Smith said while all organic matter, like grass, bark and wood, has phosphorous, increased levels of phosphorous in compounds such as fertilizer can accelerate plant production in the lake.

&#';Prevention is absolutely the way to go,&#'; he said. To that end, Smith kicked off the Water Watchdog program two years ago, involving the area's lakefront boys and girls camps, towns and homeowners associations.

&#';Newfound Water Watchdogs are people who take simple steps to stop stormwater pollution by helping rainfall and snowmelt soak in to the ground,&#'; said Smith.

In 2011 and 2012, five summer camps — Berea, Circle, Onaway, Mayhew and Pasquaney — joined the Water Watchdog program, and this winter, Smith is working with creating a curriculum of sorts with camp directors that entail do-able stormwater runoff prevention programs.

&#';The camps have a huge tradition around the lake here. Some of them are into their fourth generation of campers.

&#';They bring the kids in, young men and women, and there's a huge environmental ethic, a huge stewardship ethic,&#'; he said.

The Whittemore Shores Homeowners Association and the towns of Alexandria, Bristol Groton and Hebron provided letters of commitment to the program that helped the association secure its third watershed protection grant. Over several years the association has received funds from the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act fund: $184,000 in 2007; $129,000 in 2010 and $65,000. The grants paid for research and maps of the entire Newfound Region watershed that the local towns can utilize to create individual plans for watershed protection.

For much more information on the association and links to other web sources, go to www.newfoundlake.org.

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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.

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