LSPA was founded in 1898 and is the oldest environmental organization in New Hampshire.
The organization's first president was Col. W.S.B. Hopkins, who summed up the importance of protecting the Lake Sunapee Watershed as follows:
" The lake is the one jewel that calls in all here. The man who builds his house on a hill and does not reach the shore at all, were it not for the lake, would not have built it there. Carelessness, even the slightest introduction of impurity, will destroy the healthfulness of the region, repel the newcomer who should be invited, and destroy the value of what we have already established."
Col. Hopkins owned property near Sunapee Harbor and his cottage was called Wawbeek. A Civil War veteran and lawyer, Hopkins hailed from Worcester, MA, and was also the first president of the Worcester County Bar Association from 1887-89.
Back in the 1890s, environmental education was pretty basic. The Argus Champion of May 5, 1899 had this advice: "Those desiring to dispose of their cats, dead hens, etc, should notify the 'Lake Sunapee Water Supply Company' to see that they are properly disposed of, rather than have them left on the ice of the lake or thrown into its waters."
One of the early issues was the water level of Lake Sunapee. The mill owners downstream wanted continuous water power for the mill works, and the tourism concern at the lake was to have less variation on lake level. The New Hampshire legislature at the time began thinking that all lakes should be managed for public benefit. In 1905, the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, and other parties, agreed that the lake level must be maintained within the range of 1,108.5' and 1,111.5' elevation. Those levels were modified slightly once, but the variation of three feet still holds. The current management, the New Hampshire Dam Bureau, continues to have that variation as its goal.
Water Quality Testing
LSPA has been concerned with water quality since its founding in 1898, when, in addition to the level of the lake water, the issues were sawdust and trash in the lake. In the 1950s, LSPA collected water samples and tested for E. coli in order to have Lake Sunapee meet the standards to be named a class A (drinking water quality) lake in New Hampshire. In 1958 and 1972, major water quality reports were published on Lake Sunapee.
Starting in the 1980s, LSPA volunteer water quality monitors and staff have been regularly taking water samples in coves and deep sites in Lake Sunapee, and more recently, in its tributary streams. The samples are analyzed in LSPA’s Water Quality Laboratory at Colby-Sawyer College. The NH Department of Environmental Services provides an annual water quality report based on its analysis of the data as part of the Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP).
In the early 1980s and 1990s, LSPA focused on the importance of watersheds to water quality, and began environmental education in the local elementary schools. At that time as well, LSPA began reconstruction of the three lighthouses on Lake Sunapee. In 1998, LSPA celebrated its Centennial, began Love Your Lake Day, and was honored by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
In 2000, LSPA launched the milfoil prevention campaign, the first in the state to anticipate aquatic invasive species. That program led to the statewide Lake Host Program, now run by the New Hampshire lakes Association.
Partnerships and Global Connections
The 2000s have brought collaboration with other non-profits and academia, important grants from the Wellborn Fund, a scientific advisory committee, global participation with the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) and instrumented buoys, A Sunapee Area Watershed Plan, partnership in a NOAA infrastructure Grant Project, and more.....