GILFORD — Selectboard Chair Gus Benevides met with Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene and Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Tom Francoeur regarding the gate opening dates for the town beach on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday.
Benevides specifically wanted to know why the department keeps the gates closed until Memorial Day when there are people who use the beach and have to walk down to it.
"We're residents and taxpayers," Benevides said, noting that one recent weekend he saw about 50 people at the beach and many cars parked along Varney Point Road.
Greene told him the gates are open all winter for bob houses but once the bob houses are gone, he closes the gates so cars won't go down and make ruts in the thawing parking lot.
Weather permitting, Greene said, the gate closes a few weeks after Labor Day and for the last couple of years have reopened for the winter when the department learns that the ice is thick enough for ice fishing and the parking lot is frozen.
He said he used to be able to open the gates a few weeks earlier in the spring and close them a few weeks later in the fall but due to insurance costs, the hours for his seasonal maintenance staff were cut.
He noted there is often winter tree damage and some limbs could pose a danger until spring crews can re-mediate it. Greene also said he doesn't want the gates open in the spring until the bathrooms are operating, the boating buoys are in the water, and the swim lines are in.
"We don't want an open and inviting hazard," he said, adding the town doesn't want to encourage people to come out there and "do mischief".
Benevides said he's not trying to keep the beach open "24/7" but wanted the gate dates explained. He also said that while he understood Greene's safety concerns, he felt all the cars parked along Varney Point also present a safety issue.
Selectman Chan Eddy said he initially wasn't sure about the gate openings and closings, but said he was worried about parking along the road.
Selectmen Richard Grenier said changing when the gates open and close was "a solution to a non-existing problem". He agreed with Greene that cars will make ruts in the spring.
In the end, selectmen left it up to the Parks and Recreation Committee to determine when the gate was opened and closed.