Town Elated Over Prospect of Proposed North Beach Aquarium

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By Melody Dahl

Hampton Union, April 12, 1972

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- A proposal to construct an aquarium at North Beach here met with enthusiastic response from the Board of Selectmen when the plan was revealed to the town officials last Friday night at their weekly meeting by representatives of the Hamish Fraser Corporation of Portsmouth.

Willard "Bill" Brownell

Making the presentation to the board were Hamish Fraser, Portsmouth architect and Willard "Bill" Brownell, a biologist and environmental consultant, who is acting as coordinator for the aquarium project.

The firm proposes to construct the circular building on a five-acre site on North Beach Road directly behind the 80-unit condominium which is also being built by the Fraser firm.

The proposed site is ideally situated 200 yards from the ocean at Plaice Cove on Hampton's north beach, diagonally across from the old U.S. Coast Guard Station.

After making the presentation, Fraser said they were in the process of analyzing the site and asked for some input and reaction from the selectmen.

Chairman Francis Fitzgeraid said he was very happy to hear of the plan and cited it as "A real boost to ecology and to the Hampton area."

The chairman's only reservation was if the building could be constructed on the land which is partially marsh. He suggested that Fraser and Brownell check with the Water Pollution Commission to see if the area could be filled.

Fitzgerald commented further saying, "Conservationists say we can't fill in the marshes but they don't come up with anything constructive and just stand there and look at it."

Selectman Mrs. Helen Hayden appeared in favor of the project and remarked to Fraser, "I could almost forgive you for building the condominium."

Estimated project, cost is between $700,000 and $900,000 and would be ready to open in June of 1973.

Brownell explained that the plan, in addition to the main building, calls for a seal pool, otter pool, porpoise building and cranberry bog which is in existence at the location now.

"I have been one of the most vociferous about how we as human beings have not protected our natural environment and this project would emphasize what the marsh is all about," Brownell told the board.

He said the site was presently a poor example of marsh land with an overflow of sewerage and too small for ingrating birds and their plan called for enhancing what was there.

Because there is not a single marine environmental education center available to the public in the northern seacoast area, Fraser and Brownell feel their proposal would fill that gap.

The aquarium would be a tourist attraction as well as a year round educational center for school children and a place of research.

According to Fraser, financing of the aquarium facility is presenty under study. The firm is considering two alternatives -- a combination of private capital and longterm financing, thus creating a profit making operation or funding it from foundations and individual donations making it a non-profit concern.

Plans for the aquarium calls for a New England section featuring local marine life and a Caribbean section displaying tropical marine life.

A lecture hall seating 120 is included as well as a book store and reading room. Plans call for training and hiring local high school and college students as guides.

Brownell will be working in the seacoast area in the next few months gathering information and suggestions from people in the community.

Any organization in the area interested in hearing about the aquarium project in more detail, can contact Brownell at the Portsmouth office of the Fraser Corporation.

Brownell is a 1967 graduate of UNH and taught biology at a high school in New York state for a year prior to doing research work in fisheries for the federal government in conjunction with Cornell University.

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