By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Sunday, May 16, 2004
HAMPTON - Frank Healey couldn't believe his eyes after meeting some friends at Hampton Beach for lunch three weeks ago.
The streets and the sidewalks were full of litter. Barrels were overstuffed, and bags of trash were on the sidewalk across the street from the beach.
Healey was so appalled by what he saw he wrote a letter to Town Manager James Barrington.
Barrington shared Healey's letter at this past week's selectmen meeting, when the subject quickly turned from politics to trash.
"I received a visit, a phone call and a couple of letters concerning the litter at the beach," Barrington said. "Apparently, it got pretty nasty down there with debris and trash.
"Probably what happened was the trash bags got filled. People started putting trash on the trash barrels and there was no place to put them. Between the wind and whatever, trash was overflowing into the sidewalks."
Barrington met with Public Works Director John Hangen, a member from the State Department of Resource and Economic Development (DRED), and Hampton Chamber of Commerce member Doc Noel to discuss the situation.
"One of the problems that we all have is that Public Works and DRED both gear up for beach cleanup in June," Barrington said.
Hangen said they hire seasonal help to aid in the cleanup of the beach, but they do not come aboard until mid-June.
The state is responsible for the cleanup of the beach and along the state highway.
Barrington said it was his understating that DRED was supposed to pick up the trash on the weekends on the west side of Ocean Boulevard.
But after the meeting with DRED, he found out that wasn't totally accurate.
DRED agreed to help out during Memorial Day until the town has its seasonal help in place, the town manager said.
"They told us they have neither the help or the manpower to help us anymore," he said.
Chairman William "Skip" Sullivan said "the place looks like a dump."
"It's pretty sad, because it was a beautiful weekend and people were down there looking for fried dough, going to the Ashworth Hotel or enjoying the beach," Sullivan said.
In the meantime, Barrington said the town plans to continue its long-standing practice of offering trash bags to the businesses in the area.
"If the businesses will take a little initiative and collect the trash bags that fill up and properly store them before it's time to be set out for normal trash collection, we will supply the trash bags," he said.
While the program has been successful, selectmen noted it won't be effective until all the businesses in the area are open for the season.
"The problem is that every business isn't opened," Sullivan said. "If it was the middle of July, that plan would work."
Selectman Virginia Bridle said she wondered if the recent visitors who saw the condition of the beach may not return because of it.
"We can talk about all the reasons why this happened, but what is the solution between now and June 15?," Bridle asked. "People who see this stuff are not coming back. We can tell everyone it's budget cuts, but this is hurting revenue and what are we going to do about it?"
Bridle said DRED can pick up money from the meters, but it can't remember the agreements it made with the town.
"They agreed to help us with trash," she said.
"If they can collect the money in the meters, they should be able to help us out, especially if they made an agreement with us," Selectman Rick Griffin said.
Griffin said the beach itself has also been a mess. Barrington said DRED is already working on the beach.
"I think we need an opening standard as well as a closing standard that people need to obey," Griffin said.
While Barrington said he will continue talks with DRED, he said the town needs to do something so it doesn't run into the same problems again.
"We may need to recognize that our season actually starts earlier," the town manager said. "We might have to budget next year for additional staff to begin working in May."
Hangen also suggested to Barrington that maybe the town needs to be stricter with its trash ordinance.
"We have an ordinance on how soon businesses can put their trash out," Barrington said. "When we still have crowds down there and businesses put out trash, then people end up kicking the bags either accidentally or on purpose."