Blog : Great Bay Stewards Nearing Their Goal

By Sarah Mahoney | May 16, 2015 | in

By Mark Quirk

GREENLAND – By this time next year the boardwalk at the Great Bay Estuary will be gone. Or at least that's the hope of the Great Bay Stewards, and they're close to accomplishing their goal. Now that the boardwalk is nearing the end of its life the Great Bay Stewards (GBS) have set out to raise the almost $350,000 needed to restore it.

It's their intent to replace the existing boardwalk with a new, more functional, environmentally-friendly one. And after a lengthy fund raising campaign, they only need to raise another $8,000 to match federal grant money before the Stewards hand the money over to the state. Then the New Hampshire Fish and Game, which manages the Great Bay Reserve, can put the project out to bid.

Peter Wellenberger, the executive director of the Great Bay Stewards, said he hopes to have the rest of the money raised by June 1 so they can start the contract process at that point. Wellenberger hopes to begin construction in November and have the project completed by next spring.

“Everything is on schedule,” Wellenberger said. “We want to start construction on Nov. 1 and in the spring of 2016 it should be complete.”

The $8,000 needed is to match a second federal grant approved in March for $180,000. The Stewards previously matched a federal grant for $133,000 in 2014 when they first started campaigning for the boardwalk's funding.

For 22 years one of the biggest attractions at the Great Bay Discovery 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 wildlife inhabitants, it also serves as an educational tool. Over the years about 53,000 local school children and countless adults have utilized the boardwalk to better understand the importance of the bay's ecosystem.

“It really is used very heavily through our educational program,” said Cory Riley, manager of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “(Great Bay) is an amazing resource.”

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.

GBS also plans to use a new technology known as helical piles. These thin metal rods sink into the ground with little impact to the environment to make the boardwalk sturdier and keep it from swaying.

The proposed improvements are designed to make the boardwalk welcoming and more user friendly to guests 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.

Last fall 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.

Wellenberger said the names of those who donate will be added to an exhibit that will be part of the improvements.

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.

“I can't imagine a shoreline that's equivalent along the I-95 corridor,” Riley said. “It's a tremendous resource that New Hampshire has.”

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, GBS 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.

To learn more about the Great Bay Stewards, or make a donation, click here.