Bicentennial Park Beautification

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Room to Grow

Gardeners Lead Cause for Community Beautification Project - Part One

By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, May 2, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
BEAUTIFUL BOATLOAD -- Winnacunnet High School students plant flowers in a donated boat now situated at Bicentennial Park at North Beach. A community effort is currently underway to beautify the site.
[Atlantic News Photo]

It is becoming a community garden in every sense of the term.

Located just past the north end of the seawall at Hampton's North Beach, Bicentennial Park is undergoing an extensive facelift through a project that involves helping hands from around the Seacoast. It's an effort that's been a long time coming.

The site was originally proposed by Hampton's American Revolution Bicentennial Celebration Committee and approved by selectmen back in 1975, in honor of America's 200th anniversary.

Over the years the site has suffered from erosion and clearly has been in need of aesthetic attention for quite a while.

"It really needed to be done," says Linda Gebhart of the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee. "It hadn't been done in a long time."

Responding with true gardeners' hearts, Gebhart and fellow committee member Geannina Guzman-Scanlan put their green thumbs together to create a solution for Bicentennial Park. It's a task with which they are very familiar.

Back in 2006, the two garden enthusiasts were instrumental in turning a blacktop island near Hampton Beach State Park into a thriving green space, with an abundance of colorful flowers, shrubs and foliage.

Funding for that project was raised by the group; no town or state dollars were involved. Regular maintenance of the site is provided by committee members as well.

Now with Bicentennial Park (located on a scenic byway) Gebhart and Guzman-Scanlan have a brand new garden-focused project underway, and by all accounts it's coming together just beautifully.

Part of the success of the project thus far is due to the interest and contributions from different groups, businesses and individuals around the community.

That's exactly how Gebhart envisioned things.

Noting that they would not be functioning as the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee for this project, Gebhart says "We [wanted] to do something as a community - "not the beach, not the town, but as a community."

To that end, Gebhart says, "I talked to Boy Scouts, I talked to Rotary, I talked to the people who visit the park." Overall response has been positive, and Gebhart reports that an "umbrella group" of "Friends of Bicentennial Park" is being formed.

Assistance from high school students has also been utilized to make the project go forth.

"Winnacunnet kids have been working with us the whole month of April on Thursdays," Gebhart says. "A science teacher offered to grow our seeds." Students also worked to clean up the area before the beautification efforts began.

Gebhart has also tapped into the time and talents of others in the Seacoast area to help with the overall effort. Evidence of this valuable input is already visible to anyone who passes by Bicentennial Park these days.

As far as funding is concerned, "I did research and applied for a grant," says Gebhart. Through her participation with the Portsmouth Garden Club and their Festival of Trees event last year, Gebhart applied for - and was awarded - a $400 grant. Guzman-Scanlan also sought matching grants for the project.

Those connected with the project believe it's a good, practical investment of dollars as well as deeds.

"Given that we have such historic value in that parcel of land that the town owns and it's used a lot," says Guzman-Scanlan, "it only made sense to beautify it and put some positive energy into it."

And it's not just a matter of "let's just plant some flowers," says Gebhart. "It's a really historic part of town that really needed to be honored. I'm really encouraged that people do want to help."

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