LACONIA — The winter of 2015 was rough on the old docks in front of the Naswa Resort. The damage was so great that Cynthia Makris, whose family owns the historic resort, had them replaced.
The new docks have a fancy LED under-dock lighting system. Makris can choose from 300 colors, and can change them with a few swipes of her cell phone. So, when the 2016 Fourth of July weekend rolled around, she selected red, white and blue lights.
It turned out that her patriotic display was illegal. Now, thanks to the passage of SB 188, which Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law earlier this summer and which he celebrated with a visit to The Naswa on Monday afternoon, it is no longer illegal.
The law that Makris was violating in 2016 — which she was informed of by a visit from a Marine Patrol officer — had to do with the colors of shore lights and how they might be misinterpreted by boaters.
Boaters traveling after dark are required to have a red and a green bow light so other boaters can tell how they’re positioned. State Statute 270-D:7 stated, “No person shall display, at any point on the shore visible from the water, any lights that resemble in color or configuration the required navigational lights of any vessel.”
Captain Tim Dunleavey of New Hampshire Marine Patrol, said his division, which is part of the Department of Safety, was in favor of changing the law.
“The Naswa was an example of lights — while red and green resemble the navigation lights, certainly the location and the way they were being displayed, it would be very difficult for a boater to confuse those with those of the navigational lights of another vessel,” Dunleavy said. “We never had the option to say that it was legal for her to display those lights.”
SB 188 inserted a phrase, “deemed by the division of state police, marine patrol bureau,” to the language of the statute.
State Sen. Bob Giuda, who sponsored the bill, said the original statute was “not a bad law, it’s just too restrictive.” SB 188, he said, “Was really just a wording change to give Marine Patrol the discretion to make the call on their own.”
Sununu, who visited the Naswa for a ceremonial signing of the bill on Monday, said the legislative action was an example of a constituent identifying a problem and their representatives addressing the problem.
“The previous rules were well-intentioned; you saw how it affected people that, in the case of Cynthia, really honored her father and Marine Corps veterans,” Sununu said.
He praised Makris for gathering a coalition of “stake holders” who were able to suggest a solution that was acceptable to all of them.
“Everything’s doable, especially in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.
“For our 84th birthday, we’ve had red, white and blue docks and they’ve been red, white and blue ever since,” Makris said.
The Naswa Resort does more than just display lights to show its appreciation for its country. Peter Makris, Cynthia’s late father, was a Marine Corps veteran. Since his death, Cynthia has paid tribute by supporting Veterans Count, a nonprofit that provides assistance to veterans. She said she was so taken aback three years ago to learn that she couldn’t use red lights for the Fourth of July that she called someone she knew at State Police.
“He said, ‘you can never have red, white and blue docks unless you have the law changed,’” she recounted.
Most people would have stopped there. Not Makris. She spoke with Dunleavey, at Marine Patrol, who said he would help her with the language of a bill. Then, at the annual Marine Corps Ball last November, she asked Sen. Giuda, also a Marine Corps veteran, if he would sponsor it. He agreed.
State Rep. Charlie St. Clair, who sits on the House’s Transportation Committee, helped it to gain that body’s support, and by the time summer was beginning this year, all it required was the Governor’s penmanship.
That was something Makris reminded Sununu of during Laconia Motorcycle Week for a publicity event.
“It was Motorcycle Week when the Governor came out to cut the rally cake. It was then that I asked him about SB-188. He said, ‘Yes, yes, it passed.’ I said, ‘Yes, yes, I know. I was told it’s sitting on your desk,’” Makris said.
The next day, Sununu signed it into law.
Makris said she learned a lot about the legislative process through her mission to be able to display the dock lights of her choosing.
“I’m really honored to be able to have the red, white and blue docks for the veterans and my dad,” she said. “I hope that other people enjoy seeing the dock lights, it has certainly changed the landscape at night-time at the Naswa. The docks are all just aglow now.”