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No trespassing? Posted Dublin Lake shoreline is within town’s right-of-way

  • A "NO TRESPASSING" sign on the shore of Dublin Lake. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/6/2020 10:01:26 AM

The Dublin Select Board deemed certain “No Trespassing” signs are in the town’s right-of-way after a resident made a water accessibility complaint regarding a section of Dublin Lake shoreline near Browns Cove, across from the Pumpelly Trail on East Lake Road.

“The signs are in the public right-of-way of the road,” Select Board Chair Walter Snitko said. The Board discussed the issue on April 27. “We’re still going back and forth with legal counsel to figure out what the town’s action would be on that,” Snitko said, including how it limits enforcement of the “No Trespassing” signs. Snitko said he did not believe the town had the authority to remove the signs unless they were physically obstructing something. Police Chief Tim Suokko said that the police would not enforce the signs if they were found to be invalid.

The complainant, Steve Baldwin, said he first discovered the signs while on a bike ride on April 21. He brought the issue to the town after he looked into an 1801 deed referencing the original layout of East Lake Road, which used to be the main thoroughfare between Dublin and Marlborough. The specified right-of-way is four rods, or 32 feet from the center line on both sides, he said. At the part of the shoreline in question, the right-of-way extends all the way into the water. Baldwin said he brought the issue to the town’s attention because he wants kids to be able to fish, and people to be able to swim from the shoreline.

There are multiple landowners on that section of shoreline, and several have put up No Trespassing signs over the years. The section in question, owned by Joan Griffin and John Morris, was posted sometime in the last year, Fish and Game officer William Boudreau said. There aren’t many other public access spots on the lake, he said, and that section is usually busy on opening day of lake trout season, which runs from the fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 14.

Peterborough resident Beth Corwin described the posted property in question as a “really nice access point” farther south and west along the lake from the fire hydrant. She used to swim from that point with other long distance swimmers, she said. Although she switched to accessing the lake from the boat launch after the signs went up last summer, she said that some of her friends disregarded the signs, and were approached by a man who told them it was private property.

“I usually believe it when people say ‘this is my property.’ It is heavily used, though,” she said.

Peterborough resident Peggy Brown said she’d expressed incredulity when she noticed the signs near the fire hydrant last summer. It’s convenient to come down from the Pumpelly Trail and take a swim, she said.  “How does that impact a landowner?” she asked, when the spot is unsuitable for boat launching or sunbathing. “This beautiful lake has very limited access” for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter, she said.

Griffin said she “didn’t want to get into” the reasons for their decision to post the property, and was not aware of any complaint to the town, or of any issue of the legality of the posting as of April 28.

Although Baldwin also notified the state’s Public Water Access Advisory Board, board chair Thomas Quarles said he didn’t expect to have further involvement in the issue. “The right of public access seems to have been addressed here,” he said. The state owns the water and submerged land all the way up to the high water mark on any pond covering ten acres or more, he said, which includes Dublin Lake. “Once you get on the water, you have equal rights to any other member of the public to use that water,” he said. The Board had previously worked on an access issue involving the Dublin Lake boat ramp in 2013, he said. “We and the board are interested in preserving public access to public waters wherever we can,” he said.

Chris Flynn also owns land on that stretch of East Lake Road, and has posted his shoreline for three of the last five years due to liability concerns, and to curb littering. “When we first got the land, all we’d do is find beer cans,” he said. The signs he posted list his phone number, and ask that a person call if they’d like to use the shoreline. People do call and ask permission, he said.


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