Blog : Nonprofit Looks to Keep Boardwalk Afloat in the Great Bay

By Madalyn | Nov 13, 2014 | in

By Mark Quirk

GREENLAND – Whenever a school bus pulls into the Great Bay Discovery Center, Peter Wellenberger can't help but chuckle to himself. Seeing the smiling, amazed looks on the children's faces as they exit the bus and look at the Great Bay Estuary never gets old for him. But the real joy comes later.

“What's really exciting is when a school bus comes with school kids and (some of the children) come back on Saturday with their family,” said Wellenberger, executive director of the Great Bay Stewards. “It's just a great place to go.”

For 22 years one of the biggest attractions at the center has been the quarter-mile boardwalk that meanders through and around the Great Bay Estuary. With its unique view of the Great Bay and the wildlife that lives there, it has also served as an educational tool. Thousands of local school children and adults have utilized the boardwalk over the years to better understand the importance of the bay's ecosystem.

Now that boardwalk is nearing the end of its life and the Great Bay Stewards are looking to the community to help raise the almost $350,000 needed to restore it.

Not only do the Great Bay Stewards, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Great Bay, plan on replacing the boardwalk, they also plan on making some improvements. They plan to add two telescopes, one of which will be handicap accessible, two new educational kiosks, and storage bins along the walk to make it easier for educators to store props and literature they need for their presentations during guided tours.

They also plan to use a new technology called helical piles to hold the boardwalk in place. Helical piles are thin metal rods that sink into the ground with little impact to the environment to make the boardwalk sturdier and keep it from swaying.

To make this plan a reality, the Great Bay Stewards started a fundraising campaign to rebuild and restore the boardwalk through their Buy a Board campaign. People can choose to donate either $100 to sponsor one board for the boardwalk or $1,000 to sponsor a section of 10 boards. Those who donate $100 receive recognition at the entrance to the boardwalk (non-members will also receive a complimentary membership to Great Bay Stewards). Those who donate $1,000 receive special recognition at the entrance to the boardwalk, and a VIP kayak trip around Great Bay (non-members will also receive a complimentary membership to Great Bay Stewards). Donations can be made through the Great Bay Steward's website.

These improvements are designed to make the boardwalk welcoming and more user friendly to those visiting the Discovery Center. Due to improved construction techniques, it is anticipated the new boardwalk will have a much longer life-span.

“We want to make the boardwalk more dynamic,” Wellenberger said.

The boardwalk is a critical asset to the Discovery Center and the work of the Great Bay Stewards as it provides one of only a few access points to Great Bay.

The Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBNERR) is part of a national network of protected areas and promotes long-term research, education and stewardship throughout the Great Bay Estuary. Created under the Coastal Zone Management Act, the National Estuarine Research Reserve partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the coastal states protects more than one million acres of the nation's most important coastal resources.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department manages the Great Bay Reserve, which was designated in 1989, and is supported by the Great Bay Stewards. In addition to these partnerships, they’ve also joined with the Green Alliance, a union of local, sustainable businesses and members working to unite the green community. Through its work with Great Bay Stewards, the Green Alliance has brought awareness to the nonprofit's sustainable methods and practices to preserve the Great Bay.

Wellenberger said one of the most attractive things about the boardwalk is that it's a great birding area. Great Bay is in the Atlantic flyway, the route birds use when migrating, and many of them use the Great Bay as a place to rest. A few species common to the area are the American black duck and the Osprey. There are also eagles living on the Bay now.

Fund raising efforts for the boardwalk are already underway. The Reserve has secured a $133,000 grant through NOAA, but the funds have to be matched by private donations before they can be used.

The Stewards are in charge of the fundraising efforts and have committed $40,000 to the campaign. They have also received a $25,000 donation from one of the center's volunteers and his wife, Joe Steiglitz and Dr. Pam Bertram, and $5,000 from the New Hampshire Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

Right now Wellenberger said they have raised about $210,000, leaving about another $125,000 to be raised before the project can be put out to bid. They hope to raise at least $10,000 through Buy a Board.

They hope to start construction on the new boardwalk in November of 2015 and complete it in June of 2016.

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