SPOFFORD N.H. — On the front line of keeping the Spofford Lake free of invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil and Chinese mystery snails are the Lake Hosts, folks who work the boat ramp on Route 9A from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week from mid-May through the end of October, weather permitting.
“We have seven lake hosts and each host does two six-hour shifts a week,” said Frank Turner, the coordinator of the lake hosts. While the lake hosts get paid to inspect boats, Turner is a volunteer for the Lake Association.
“We have one of the few New Hampshire lakes that is clean and that’s because the lake hosts have been doing their jobs for many years,” said Turner.
In 2020, the total cost of the program was $23,870, with the Lake Association contributing $13,120 and the Chesterfield Conservation Commission chipping in $6,500, with another $4,250 from the state.
In 2020, more than 6,800 boats were inspected, which was a 22 percent increase over the previous year.
“Most of the lake hosts are retired people and all but two are from Vermont,” said Turner. “Most importantly, they are here to protect the lake. As each boat comes in, they inspect it and look for invasive species. They have been trained for this and know what they are looking for.”
If they do find something suspicious, said Turner, they take a sample, bag it and send it to the state for analysis.
Last summer, smelly and possibly toxic blooms of cyanobacteria appeared in the crystal clear waters of Spofford Lake.
Amanda McQuaid, the coordinator of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services beach program and harmful algal and cyanobacterial bloom program said the bloom was most likely the result of lower water levels, meaning surface disturbances were able to reach the bottom of the lake, loosening the cyanobacteria to rise to the top.
“It’s possible it’s been growing down there for some time, but we’ve never seen it until now,” said McQuaid.
What the hosts don’t do is inform people on safety, speed limits and the wake rule
On Spofford Lake there is a 40-mph daytime limit and 20-mph limit at night. According to state boating regulations, boats can’t make a wake within 150 feet of the shore.
This not only protects swimmers, rafts, docks, and moored boats, it also helps protect the lake from shoreline erosion, a major concern for Spofford Lake and its continued health.
“Marine Patrol is responsible for that,” said Turner. “They are the police for the lake.”
There’s no telling when Marine Patrol is on Spofford Lake, he said.
“They come out on a random basis,” he said.
Lake hosts see all types of watercraft, from kayaks, canoes and row boats, to speed boats and pontoon boats. Some people come early, before the lake hosts arrive, he said, but they’ve never been a problem.
“Most people who come really early are fishermen and they’re pretty responsible,” said Turner.
Turner said his hosts have never informed him of a negative reaction from a boater putting in or pulling out of Spofford Lake. This includes making sure boaters pulled their drain plugs before moving from lake to lake.