Winni Sailing Assoc. buys Smith Cove property

GILFORD — "It's been a long odyssey," said Tom Mullen, president of the Lake Winnipesaukee Sailing Association, Inc. (LWSA), which after seeking a permanent home for the past eight years yesterday acquired a three-quarter acre property with 160 feet of shorefront on Smith Cove.

Established as a nonprofit corporation in 1988, the LWSA operates instructional, recreational and competitive sailing programs for youths between six and 16 each summer with support from Fay's Boatyard and the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club. Since 2007 Mullen has searched for a site for a sailing center where the association could expand its offerings, particularly its adaptive sailing programs for those with disabilities.

For several years Mullen sought to persuade the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) to lease land at the easternmost edge of Ellacoya State Park where the center would be built. The project would include construction of a launching ramp, breakwater, dug-in boat basin, docking facilities, and a pavilion — approximately 50 feet by 75 feet — equipped with a catering kitchen and walk-in refrigeration. In 2011, George Bald, then commissioner of DRED, put and end to the association's plans for the park, which met with opposition from neighbors and abutters.

Mullen said that the LWSA scouted properties in Alton, Gilford, Laconia and Meredith before finding the lot at 25 Davis Road, which he described as "as close to ideal as I could imagine." He said that the lot is very flat to the water and has a "perfect dock" as well as a house that can be converted to house office space and classrooms. "It is virtually adjacent to Fay's Boatyard," he continued. "I can't imagine a better property for our needs."

Mullen said that the association plans to acquire two sailboats equipped with computers that operate the sails and rudders, costing some $60,000 apiece, for its adaptive sailing program and to fit the dock with a lift to enable sailors bound to wheelchairs to board and disembark.

According to public records, the association purchased the property for $595,000.