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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, May 13, 2011

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

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch joins state and Hampton officials in a ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly opened bath house facilities at Hampton Beach on Thursday. From left to right include: Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission, State Sen. Nancy Stiles, Gov. Lynch, and George Bald, commissioner of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

HAMPTON — Mary Nyhan said she has been coming to Hampton Beach since the 1930s, recalling she used to stay at the Puritan Hotel and watch the “big bands” play at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. The 96-year-old said not much has changed over those years and while it still is her favorite beach, it was long over due for a face-lift.

On Thursday, she had a front-row seat as Gov. John Lynch and other local and state officials officially opened two new bathhouses at Hampton Beach. The facilities were recently completed as part state’s $14.5 million beach redevelopment project.

Officials hope the project will rejuvenate the beach and attract future development.

“It’s just wonderful to see,” Nyhan said. “The new buildings are beautiful and it’s exciting to see what happens next.”

Nearly 100 residents and state officials came out Thursday for the official ribbon cutting and to tour the site improvements that have been made so far as part of the project.

Gov. John Lynch told those in attendance he hopes the major upgrade to the state facilities will be a catalyst for future improvements.

“Our goal is to have Hampton Beach be known as the best state beach in America for families to attend. And I think this is the beginning of that effort,” Lynch said.

The new bathhouses — one across from Haverhill Street and the other at the Marine Memorial — were the first of five new buildings completed as part of the state project that was funded last year in the state capital budget.

The two outlying buildings of the new seashell complex — which will house the Visitors Center and state parks operation — are expected to be open in mid-June.

The fifth building, the Seashell building, where a brand-new stage for nightly entertainment will be located, will be completed by November 2011.

George Bald, commissioner of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, said Harvey Construction has kept an aggressive schedule since the groundbreaking for the project occurred last May.

“Its hard to believe how much has changed in one year,” Bald said. “When you look at these new facilities you realize what a difference it will be for our visitors and customers. We are really making this a special place. It always was a special place but even more so now.”

No longer do tourists have to head to one centralized location to use a bathroom, he said, because now bathhouses are spread out in four different locations.

The new bathhouses include changing rooms, toilets, coin-operated lockers and outside water-spouting columns on both ends of the beach, to help people wash the sand off their feet.

In addition to new bathrooms, the boardwalk had been widened and benches, bike racks and shade structures have all been added.

The parking lots have been reconfigured and large, sail-shaped markers in different colors called “Sunfish” line crosswalks along nearby Ocean Boulevard to help visitors remember where they parked.

Lynn Graton, acting director of the New Hampshire Arts Council, said tourists will also notice a lot of new artwork at the beach, including a piece in one of the bathrooms entitled “People Aquarium,” which shows a reverse aquarium where fishes look in.

The artwork was made possible through the Percent For Art Program which requires that 1 percent of the negotiated construction cost of a state building project goes to public art for the facility.

John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission, who worked behind the scenes lobbying for the project, said the upgrades have brought new life to the beach.

“I think what we are seeing here is only the beginning,” he said.

Glynn French, former president of the Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“It represents a start of the redevelopment of what the beach can be in the future,” French said. “It’s the foundation of more.”

Other officials on hand were Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who as a then-state representative put forth the amendment into the state capital budget to fund the project.

A crowd gathers outside the new Hampton Beach bathhouse as New Hampshire Governor John Lynch celebrates the completion of two new bathhouses at Hampton Beach on Thursday.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

Mary Nyhan 96, fondly remembers the 1930’s at Hampton Beach whiile attending the ceremony for the newly opened bathhouses along the beach Thursday.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

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