Rewording launch sign makes sense

A 30-foot stretch of shoreline on Dublin Lake doesn’t allow a lot of room for swimming, especially if it’s chiefly used for putting in boats and canoes. But with most of the land around the lake in private hands, there’s no good location for someone to take a quick dip other than at the small board launch on Lake Road. So resident Steve Baldwin raised a valid point last week when he told the Select Board that swimming should not be discouraged there.

In Baldwin’s opinion, the sign reading “No Swimming in Launch Area” is a deterrent that limits the right of the public to use the lake. Selectmen responded that they are concerned about safety at the relatively small launch site.

Maintaining a balance between safety and public access is not an uncommon challenge at local ponds and lakes. If a lake is large enough to have a public boat launch, swimming is allowed in the lake. There’s nothing to prevent someone from launching a motorboat, sailboat, canoe or kayak, heading to a quiet spot on the lake, and using their watercraft as their jumping off platform for their swim.

But for those without a boat, the issue is how to get to the water. So people often swim at local boat launch sites, regardless of what posted signs might say. At certain times of day, they might have to keep a sharp eye out for boats being launched or removed from the water. At other times, they might have the whole place to themselves.

The N.H. Fish and Game Department’s website describes the Dublin Lake boat launch thusly: “Shallow, gravel ramp, poor turnaround, park 3-4.” That’s not quite what we found when we stopped by over the weekend. The ramp is concrete and, while parking is limited, there’s reasonable room to turnaround a boat trailer. It’s clearly a site intended chiefly to launch boats. There’s no sand; no place to sit to read or sunbathe. Trees and brush grow right down to the shoreline on both sides of the ramp. It’s not at all suitable for any kind of town beach.

But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be able to swim there if they wish.

The boat launch site, with its limited parking on a relatively small, bucolic lake, seems likely to attract mostly canoes and kayaks. There should be enough room for boaters and swimmers to share the space.

The Dublin Select Board was scheduled to visit the beach last night. As overseers of the boat launch site, which was deeded to the town by Fanny Dwight Clark and Grenville Clark in 1961, the board has the authority to determine whether swimming is allowed there. Select Board member Charlie Champagne told Baldwin that the board is not opposed to people swimming in the lake. He suggested that the board might consider changing the sign to read, “Caution, swimmers be aware of boats,” or words to that effect.

That’s a most reasonable suggestion. The Select Board should reword the sign.

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