By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, May 7, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Rich Beauchesne photo]
HAMPTON -- Advocates of the Hampton Beach Redevelopment Project from all over the Seacoast gathered Wednesday morning at the beach to celebrate the official ground-breaking of the $14.5 million project.
Gov. John Lynch was one of many officials on hand May 5 to put a shovel into the ground to start what will be a two-year project to construct two new bathhouses and a new Seashell Stage.
"My hope is that this investment will really spark the rejuvenation of the state park and Hampton Beach," Lynch said.
The project was funded last year in the state's capital budget.
John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission, said the day was a dream come true, made possible by many supporters who never gave up.
The commission worked behind the scenes lobbying for the project, arguing that such an investment would generate more revenue for the state.
"This project started with dreams," Nyhan said. "Those dreams led to ideas and passion from a community to say we are going to make this work."
Nyhan recalled the many obstacles they had to overcome, including that the project was initially included in the governor's capital budget.
George Bald, Department of Resources and Economic Development commissioner, said "tenacity" of supporters is why this project was approved. He noted they first had to get the governor on board, then get the project included in the capital budget and finally push to get it approved by the House and Senate.
"They faced thousands of road blocks but people found ways to go under or over them to make it happen," Bald said. "I told someone a year ago today that if you asked me what the better odds are — winning the Megabucks or seeing this project go forward — I told you I would win Megabucks first."
Executive Councilor Beverly Hollingworth, who once owned a business at Hampton Beach, said the state didn't always live up to the agreement with the town that it would promise to maintain the beach area.
"But not now, not today, not under this governor," said Hollingworth, who presented him with a bathing suit, Hampton Beach towel and a shovel.
"This project will be part of an economic boost," State Rep. Susan Kepner, D-Hampton, said. "It's sort of like if you build it, they will come."
Bald said the real winner will be the hundreds of thousands of tourists who come to the beach each summer.
The project will be conducted in two phases — the first is the bathhouses.
The bathhouses — one at the Marine Memorial and another near Haverhill Street — will have changing rooms, toilets, outdoor showers, coin-operated lockers and bike racks.
Portions of the sea wall, parking lots and promenade will be improved.
Construction on the new Seashell complex (phase 2) will begin after the Seafood Festival in September, when the old stage will be torn down.
The new complex will include new bathhouses, a first-aid station, a lifeguard station, maintenance garage and the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce visitors' center.
The main attraction will be the new Seashell Stage, which will have 800 seats and replace the one that was built in 1962.
Former Selectman Fred Rice said this is a day for the history books.
"The is one of the greatest days of the modern days of Hampton Beach," Rice said. "The (February) fire was a sad day. This is the start of the rebirth because it's going to put a whole new face on the beach."
[Rich Beauchesne photo]