By Rick Dumont
Hampton Union, May 24, 2013
[The following article is courtesy of Foster's Daily Democrat]
HAMPTON — With Memorial Day upon us, a ride along Ocean Boulevard in Hampton is anything but typical.
In place of boys with shovels, rakes and pails, men with excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks were working to get the beaches back in shape for the summer season. The N.H. Department DOT is in full swing preparing the beaches for the expected influx of visitors over the Memorial Day Weekend.
Each year, beginning around May 1, state workers at Hampton Beach State Park use heavy equipment to push sand back into the ocean that winter storms force up against the sea wall; sometimes as high as three to five feet above their normal levels. This year conditions were so severe that dump trucks were used to remove some of the sand at North Beach. Much of the major work is expected to be finished in time for the unofficial beginning of summer. John Kane from the Hampton Beach Village District says during the summer the beaches are raked every night. If a bad enough storm occurs, heavy equipment is used to push the sand back into the ocean much the same as the procedure in early May, so really this is “business as usual” for beach maintenance. He claims the severity of the storms this winter caused some dune erosion for the first time in many years in the White's Island section of town.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the Eastern Seaboard, and the New Hampshire seacoast was not spared. However, the storm in February proved to be equally, if not more destructive than Sandy. Route 1A was closed in 11 sections due to roads being washed out by the high surf adding to the reason for Gov. Maggie Hassan to declare a state-of-emergency.
At North Hampton State Park, the storm ruined the end section of the sea wall, as well as a large portion of the parking lot. Emergency repairs were done to get the wall in place and the parking lot repaired in time for summer traffic. Work at the newly constructed bathhouse is nearly complete which is part of the State Park system upgrade.
In Rye, roads were washed out as sections of the earthen style beach wall were breached, causing flooding in the roadways forcing closures until road crews could make their repairs. Earlier this week reconstruction was evidenced by a lone front end loader sitting on the roadside near Ray's Seafood.
At Rye Harbor, operated by the Port of New Hampshire, a new, wooden floating dock system has been ordered to replace concrete floats irreparably damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Dock manufacturers along the East Coast can't build them fast enough to meet the demand. Rye's new docks are currently being constructed in Rockland, Maine. New pilings are already in place awaiting delivery.
Geno Marconi, director of the Port Authority, hopes to have the new system in place before June 10. Marconi explains that Rye Harbor will be the staging area for companies operating out of Portsmouth Harbor servicing the Isle of Shoals due to the Memorial Bridge rebuild project which will effectively shut down any navigation from June 10-15 on the Piscataqua River.
Between the damaged docks, fuel dispensing system repairs, site work done to reconstruct the parking lot with crushed stone, repair costs will approach $200,000. Marconi, who heads the mostly self-funded Port Authority, has applied to FEMA for federal funding available due to Hurricane Sandy.
Surfers usually seen hanging 10 between 8th and 10th streets at North Beach have been forced north four blocks to 14th street due to shifting sandbars affected by the unusual storm activity. Ross Kunkell, of Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Company, says that now in addition to North Beach, the main beach in Hampton is a great place to surf. However, during the beach season, surfers are “blackballed” from the beach between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. due to beachgoers. Other than the shift in locations, Kunkell says surf activity has not been affected by the storm damage.
So it indeed appears to be “business as usual” for the seacoast beaches as summer approaches. Hampton Beach alone will see as many as 50,000 people on a hot summer afternoon. It is expected hearty New Englanders will not let a few storms put a damper on the summer tourist season.