April 22, 2013

N.H. seeks retailer for key spot in state park

The state hopes to find a money-making tenant for its 430-square-foot space in Hampton Beach.

By HOLLY RAMER The Associated Press

HAMPTON, N.H. - Sea stars and scallops, barnacles and baleen are among those competing to move into a prime bit of real estate at Hampton Beach State Park.

Besides a new performance stage, bathhouses, boardwalks and meeting spaces, the $14.5 million beach redevelopment project completed last year also included a small retail store selling New Hampshire-branded goods. But it wasn't much of a money maker, so the state is seeking new tenants to take over the space.

The change is part of a larger effort to generate money for the state's struggling park system, the only one in the nation that relies solely on user fees to cover its operating costs.

"We have high expectations around generating revenue, and we have high expectations around quality of service," said Philip Bryce, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Businesses or organizations interested in occupying the 430-square-foot space have until April 29 to submit proposals, which will be evaluated based on three main criteria: the strength of their operating plans, the expected revenue and the vendors' past experiences. Applicants will present their plans to state officials in person May 2, and a decision will be made May 6. The goal is to have a contract ready for the governor's Executive Council to approve on June 5, in time for the busy summer season.

Those interested in submitting bids also were required to attend one of two tours of the property. The first tour, held Thursday, attracted two organizations with similar visions: Explore the Ocean World and Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation.

The former is an educational program run by Ellen Goethel of Hampton, who brings interesting marine life found by her commercial fisherman husband to schools in New Hampshire and surrounding states.

"This is something she's wanted to do for a long time," David Goethel said Thursday. "Hampton Beach needs more child-friendly activities, and if you want to make it a family beach, you need reasons for families to come here. Any of these programs that are geared toward teaching kids -- and, by extension, their parents -- about the importance of the marine aquasystem seems like a natural fit."

The nonprofit Blue Ocean Society operates a marine life "touch tank" in Portsmouth, hosts educational summer programs for kids and organizes regular beach cleanup sessions. Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Anderson said she would love the chance to bring all of that right to the beach.

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