By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Sunday, July 4, 2004
HAMPTON - Jerry Dignam, a resident since 1957, has never seen North Beach look as bad as it does.
"It's a disgrace," Dignam said. "We spend a lot of taxpayer money advertising for people to come to beautiful Hampton Beach. Let me tell you, it's not beautiful right now."
Dignam said the beach was covered with trash and seaweed last weekend and he wants to know what the state's planning to do about it.
He took his concerns to selectmen recently, and also questioned Gov. Craig Benson about it when he visited the Hampton State Pier on Tuesday.
Selectmen Chairman William "Skip" Sullivan said he also talked to Benson.
"I spoke briefly with the governor and he assured me that DRED (the Department of Resources and Economic Development) will take care of it just as well as they ever did," Sullivan said.
Selectmen have been talking about trash a lot lately.
The board, after being bombarded with letters from residents concerning trash at Hampton Beach, have been trying for the last two months to schedule a meeting with DRED to discuss beach cleanup.
The state is responsible for the cleanup of the beach and along the state highway, and selectmen want to know why they look as badly as they do.
Sullivan said Town Manager James Barrington met with Johanna Lyons of DRED on Thursday to discuss the issue. The town was assured the matter would be addressed.
Dignam said seeing is believing.
"I would love to see a clean beach by the end of the summer," Dignam said. "I will keep making noise until it happens. I haven't seen anyone disagree with me. I want something done."
Dignam said the beach is a mess - soda cans, cigarette butts and mosquito-infested seaweed.
Amy Bassett, marketing director for DRED, said the department is doing the best with the resources it has.
Dignam said the state should use some of the money it collects from parking meters and invest it in the beaches.
Bassett said that's exactly what is done: The money collected from parking meters goes back into funding their operation.
The state spends $1.5 million annually to clean and maintain all the state parks in Hampton. That money includes all the salaries and equipment it uses.
"We do what we can," Bassett said.
Every morning, workers clean North Beach, where they pick up trash and seaweed and other items by hand, Bassett said.
Workers clean Hampton Beach with a raking machine four days a week, she said.
Bassett said she was unaware of trash problems at North Beach, but said they would be addressed. She did admit the department has received complaints about trash at Hampton Beach.
"We haven't received any complaints recently," she said. "The last time we received a complaint was on a hot day in May. We were just not prepared for the amount of people that came to the beach that day."
Selectman Ginny Bridle said beach trash is frustrating.
"People who come here and see trash on the beach are not going to come here anymore," she said.
Trash and seaweed aren't Dignam's only complaint. He said the seawall is eroding and there are no trash barrels at North Beach.
Bassett said it's been the state's practice not to provide trash barrels. Its motto is, "if you carry it onto the beach, then you carry it off."
Dignam said the state's motto stinks.
"Are you telling me that a mother with four kids is going to carry a banana peel back with her?" Dignam asked. "I don't think so. They're going to leave it on the beach."
As for the seawall, Bassett said the state usually doesn't replace one until it becomes a hazard. And trying to secure funding for a new seawall in a tight budget year doesn't always happen, she added.
Selectmen Chairman Sullivan said he hopes the beach trash problem will become a thing of the past.