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Hampton’s new look: A showcase beach

August 27. 2011 9:34PM

If you didn't make it to Hampton Beach State Park this summer, you have one more week before the season ends. It's worth the trip just to see how nice the park's renovations are.

Last year, the state began work on a big project to tear down the aging facilities at the park and replace them with ones more befitting such a showcase tourist attraction. Gone are the nearly 50-year-old clamshell and the aging restrooms across from it. (They won't be missed.) In their place are beautiful new structures that look great and are better located for public convenience.

Instead of one public restroom in the center of the park, there now are two bath houses, one on each end. Whereas the old bath house looked like it would fit in any state park in America circa 1974, the new ones look like little cottages found only along the New England coast. Though the stage to replace the clamshell won't be finished until the fall, the main structure is done, and it looks grand, as though perhaps it had been lifted from President George H.W. Bush's compound in Kennebunkport and resettled nicely onto Hampton Beach.

The parking is easier to negotiate, and the streets and lots are better marked to help beach-goers find their cars more quickly after a long day in the sun. Our only complaint is that the explanation of how to operate the parking kiosks is not clear enough. On a recent visit, we saw numerous visitors confused by the vague instructions.

A state study in 2008 estimated that these renovations (weighing in at $14.5 million) would increase revenue at the park by $31 million a year by 2014.

That seems a bit optimistic, but we don't doubt that the improvements will attract more tourists and improve receipts, thus justifying the costs in the long run. Finally, Hampton Beach State Park looks like the flagship New England beach it always had the potential to be.

Tourism Editorial Hampton