A Plan Begins to Grow

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Bicentennial Park: Part Two

By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, May 9, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
Winnacunnet High School students are pictured here with just one of the gardening projects they were involved with through the Bicentennial Park beautification project at North Beach.
[Atlantic News Courtesy Photo]

HAMPTON -- A gardening project is changing Bicentennial Park for the better, and the work taking place at the High Street end of the seawall at Hampton's North Beach is clearly a community effort.

Spearheaded by Linda Gebhart and Geannina Guzman-Scanlan of the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee, the project is not only providing long-awaited aesthetics but is also addressing the erosion occurring at the site.

Even with a sandy surface, the site has been a breeding place for an unwelcome sort of groundcover that grows in these parts.

"We found poison ivy," reveals Gebhart.

That -- and other unattractive, invasive material -- was removed through a huge clean-up effort conducted by numerous volunteers, including a dozen or so students from Winnacunnet High School and a couple of their educators.

"The kids have been major," says Gebhart, adding that WHS teachers Cathy Silver and John Croteau have been a huge help with enlisting student assistance and providing flowers grown in the school's greenhouse.

"It's amazing the energy that the students at Winnacunnet and the teachers have given us," says Guzman-Scanlan. "It's so nice to be working together; it's such a [great] resource."

Bicentennial Park was dedicated back in 1976 in celebration of the 200th birthday of the United States. Originally, the now-disbanded Salty Marsh Garden Club planted and maintained the site. Now, after years of neglect, the park is definitely perking up -though there is still more to be done and plenty of volunteer opportunities to make it all happen.

Gebhart lists just a couple of helping hands from around the Seacoast area who thus far have taken an interest and an active part in revitalizing the sandy seaside park.

Among them: Her husband John (seen recently at the site installing a garden to combat erosion) and a garden designer at Churchill's named Lisa.

"She's holding two urns for us," says Gebhart. "They're going to plant the material in the urns and deliver them without cost." The urns will be situated on either side of the benches at the site.

Both Guzman-Scanlan and Hampton resident Skip Webb have been working with Aquarion Water Company "to supply our beautification projects with water," Gebhart says, adding that there is a fire hydrant situated four feet from a donated boat that has been filled with colorful flowers and plants.

Once the water spigot is in, she says, "we'd like to set up some kind of watering schedule," again enlisting the assistance of helpful volunteers.

"We have had some great, great people that are interested in helping," says Guzman-Scanlan. Plus, she says, "We have some businesses that are interested in matching the grant" presented earlier this week by the Portsmouth Garden Club to help fund the project.

The plantings they have installed "are mainly easy-growing annuals," says Gebhart. "Maintenance is going to be hard [at the site] so we selected varieties that are die-hards. I'm trying to be a real New England frugal gardener - you have to be."

Part of the plot plan includes the scheduled mid-May installation of 16 lilacs ordered from the Governor's Lilac and Wildflower Commission. A thundercloud flowering plum tree, scheduled to be installed as part of the recent observance of Earth Day, is also part of the landscape. Overall maintenance of the site is an aspect that Gebhart is currently addressing. Help will be needed to water the plants and "deadhead" faded blooms along with other upkeep, and volunteers - including potential summer residents - are more than welcome to step forward. "We hope to form Friends of Bicentennial Park to help care and water what is being planted," says Gebhart. "This way, everyone can be involved, not just the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee."

It appears the entire effort expended thus far is certainly worth the work.

"All of this really came out of our vision and desire to beautify the beach," says Guzman-Scanlan, "to have open, beautiful space and enhancing the natural beauty we have here."

"It's really turning into what we hoped," says Gebhart. "We've been able to come together as a community and we need a lot more of that. Anybody can join us; it's a positive effort."

To find out more about volunteering for this community beautification project, call Linda Gebhart at (603) 929-3850 or Geannina Guzman-Scanlan at (603) 926-0015. In addition, the Hampton Recreation and Parks Department has a number of "Adopt-a-Space" areas around the town. For more information about that program call the rec office at (603) 926-3932.

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