Setting The Stage

Seashell Complex ready for 2012 season at Hampton Beach State Park  

By Johanna Lyons

Hampton Beach  State Park is a 40-acre linear park that occupies 2 miles of the 18-mile New Hampshire seacoast. The area is heavily developed with seasonal cottages, hotels, attractions, and businesses. The park and its host community, Hampton, N.H. (population 14,976), have over 75 years of social and economic interdependence. The redevelopment of the park is an example of strong partnerships between the executive and legislative branches of government, state agencies and community, clients and contractors, and contractors and community.

A Look Back In Time

The history of Hampton Beach starts at the turn of the 20th century when enterprising individuals laid out the streets, installed utilities, and sold lots on which to build seasonal cottages and resort hotels. The streetcar and railroad were the primary ways to access this tourist and resort area until the mid-1930s when increased personal car ownership made it easier to visit. The proximity to major urban areas such as Boston,Lowell, and Lawrence, Mass., and Manchester, N.H., expanded the appeal to day visitors.

Photos Courtesy NH Division of Parks and Recreation

In 1933, the town deeded the beach and the parking facilities to the state. After World War II, the state made significant investments in seawall, road, and bridge construction that encouraged more day visitors.  The beach facilities remained unchanged with basic amenities, including a small bathhouse and bandstand until 1963, when the “new” Seashell Complex opened. The complex provided much-needed visitor services including a modern outdoor performance space, expanded bathrooms, and office space for park administration and the local chamber of commerce.

Planning For The Next Century

Beginning in 2001, the town, the Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the Office of Energy and Planning partnered on a master plan for Hampton Beach. The town wanted to make some significant infrastructure improvements in the area and due to the close, sometimes overlapping management responsibilities, the partnership was established.

In 2008–recognizing the Seashell facilities were becoming more and more expensive to maintain–the parks and recreation division appropriated funding to prepare a design and development study with a cost estimate to be presented to the legislature. It was recognized early on that, while the physical improvements were to state park facilities, the redevelopment of the park would be an economic development project to benefit the region and the state.

Economic Development

The Hampton Beach area has been a regional and international destination for more than 100 years, and tourism expenditures are an important revenue source for the state. An economic-impact study was done in 2008 and then updated later that year showing the public investment of capital monies will be returned to the state in increased revenue. It is also anticipated that the improvements at Hampton Beach will spur reinvestment in private property and business in the area.

Community Support And Funding

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