Hampton Beach Master Plan: Environmental Recommendations
As Hampton Beach includes a beach and dune system that plays an important role both in supporting the fragile habitats of the Hampton Seabrook Marsh and Estuary, and the maintenance of man-made features such as roads, buildings, and walls, it needs to develop a plan that protects both of these interests. This section proposes strategies and recommendations that are consistent with the protection and wise management of both natural resources and the built environment.
The Hampton Seabrook Marsh and Estuary
The Hampton Seabrook Marsh and Estuary is one of the state's most valuable natural resources. While its overall health is generally good, there are a number of concerns that threaten the long-term quality of this resource. There has been incremental encroachment into the marsh for many years and the water quality needs to be improved and maintained. Fragmentation of this habitat by development, encroachment, and individual ownership activities risks habitat loss and endangers marsh species.
Several projects are underway to improve the health of the marsh by increasing tidal flow, improving water quality, and restoring natural marsh vegetation. For example, the NH DES supports a shellfish restoration program that promotes a viable, long-term solution for shellfish health by targeting water quality improvement.
Strategy 1. Continue with and enhance existing environmental programs and regulations.
At present, there are a number of regulatory and non-regulatory management programs in the Hampton Beach area that help protect the natural and marine environment. The uses and activities that occur in the Hampton Beach area need to be managed to minimize environmental impacts to the surrounding estuarine and beach habitat. To ensure long-term protection of these resources, it is necessary to enhance the current programs and regulations. One of the main goals is to protect the water quality of the estuary and harbor and the natural habitats of the area.
Specific recommendations related to this strategy include the following:
- Continue to fund the state’s shellfish restoration program.
- Continue to require conservation easements on projects that may impact the marsh-estuarine system.
- Enhance the local school program on dune protection.
- Ensure appropriate use of Best Management Practices (BMP) for stormwater management. BMPs are techniques for controlling non-point source pollution. These techniques can be physical features such as swales and detention basins or maintenance procedures such as periodic sweeping of parking lots.
Strategy 2: Encourage an appropriate balance between actual use and protection of the area’s natural and marine environment.
The Hampton-Seabrook marsh and estuarine system not only provides a significant habitat for fish, shellfish and wildlife, it also provides opportunities for appropriate uses by tourists and residents. The beach can allow heavy use on the beach, while the dunes can provide protection of property from ocean storm events. For example, the scenery along the beach and marsh is probably one of the area’s greatest assets. The estuary provides opportunity for boating, fishing, clamming, and similar activities if properly controlled.
Hampton and North Beaches offer many viewing locations and vantage points. Aside from the designated viewing areas such as at the Seashell Stage and the Marine Memorial, many other locations provide not only panoramic views, but also "snapshot" views such as one looking east through the path of the State Park dunes, or through the narrow corridor of Tuttle Street to the marsh. These and other scenic views should be enhanced. For example, there could be enhanced views of the beach or marsh along street corridors, along the water’s edge, or even at the main gateways to Hampton Beach. The use of interpretive signs, benches, and viewing scopes could supplement these viewing areas.
There are some streets, however, that have restrictive or unsightly views due to the development or particular use of the property. For example, Duston Avenue is blocked by a high wooden fence, and Ashworth Avenue has several, large parking lots. To improve the views, these and other areas should be landscaped or have the barriers removed.
The following viewing and scenic areas should be preserved and enhanced:
Designated Viewing and Scenic Areas
- Seashell Stage area
- Marine Memorial
- Coastal Byway
- Independence Byway
Non-Designated Public and Private Viewing Locations
- Great Boar’s Head
- Top of the water slide on E Street
- State marina
- Tower at Seashell Stage
- Bicentennial Park.
The use and appreciation of the area’s natural features could be enhanced as a means to preserve and improve their benefits. Any use of the dunes should be properly managed by using controlled footpaths. Passive recreational and educational activities that provide alternatives to the busy beachfront activities should be encouraged and enhanced.
Specific recommendations for this strategy include the following:
- Plan bicycle paths along the marsh and pier extensions that connect to main routes.
- Encouraging a balanced use of harbor for commercial and recreational boaters.
- Establish a dune management program.
- Promote marine education programs.
Natural Resource Protection—Regulatory
- Adopt the Model Stormwater Management and Erosion Control Regulation, prepared in 1997 by the NH Association of Conservation Districts and the Water Quality and Urban Conservation Committee, as part of both the Town’s Subdivision and Site Plan Review Regulations. Require all developments of significant size to have the stormwater and erosion and sediment control plans reviewed and approved by a third party professional engineer.
- Amend the appropriate sections of the Hampton Subdivision and Site Plan Review to reference the Stormwater Management and Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook for Urban and Developing Areas of New Hampshire, 1992, as amended.
- Continue to encourage conservation easements on development projects that incorporate significant areas of sensitive or valuable natural resources.
- Enhance the monitoring of development activity adjacent to the marsh and estuary to ensure that it conforms to all applicable local and state laws as well as any conditions for subdivision or site plan approval. Such monitoring may require additional personnel that might have multi-community jurisdiction.
- Add a provision to the Hampton Subdivision and Site Plan review regulations to require developers to provide specific structural and maintenance measures (BMPs) for large developments for oil/gas separation from storm water.
- The NH Marine Patrol should enforce the state's headway standard for areas within 100 feet of the shore and consider the need to limit areas for the use of jet skiing particularly adjacent to the salt marsh edge.
Natural Resource Protection—Non-Regulatory Strategies
- Work closely with non-profit agencies, such as The Nature Conservancy or Rockingham Land Trust, to acquire properties with high natural value through easement or purchase.
- Seek local, state, and federal funding for acquisition in fee or by easement of strategic properties within or adjacent to the marsh.
- Continue to ensure that the Marine Patrol of the NH Department of Safety maintains an active presence in Hampton Harbor and the estuary to control jet skis.
- Continue to fund and implement the state’s shellfish restoration project including the water quality monitoring and sanitary shoreline survey programs.
- Continue to work in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and NH DES to control invasive species such as phragmites through restoration work. One specific marsh project, "Area 210" (NRCS Evaluation of Restorable Salt Marshes, 1994), is located south of Island Path. Improvements would include a culvert clean out and the repair of the headwall.
- NH DRED, NH DES, and the Town of Hampton should establish a dune management plan and program that includes re-planting dune grass and constructing dune boardwalks to control the random use of the dunes by beachgoers. It should involve state and town agencies due to the uses and activities that occur in and near the dunes.
- The Division of Ports and Harbors of the Pease Development Authority and the Bureau of Public Works (NH DOT) should continue to replenish the beaches of the Hampton Beach area--Hampton Beach and North Beach-- as part of the dredge program for Hampton-Seabrook Harbor.
- Establish a "carry in, carry out" trash program at Hampton Beach
- Continue the dune education and restoration program currently sponsored by the NH DES in cooperation with Winnacunnet High School.
- Design and construct a salt marsh observation platform and pathway on Hampton Conservation Commission land adjacent to the salt marsh on Island Path.
- Initiate a dialogue with established Seacoast education centers to implement an education program that takes advantage of Hampton’s marsh-estuarine system and the beach and dune system. Such programs could include field programs and studies that focus on a) the Hampton Seabrook marsh-estuarine system, and b) the beach and dune system systems of Hampton and Seabrook.