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Empty Beaches

Sun, 02/01/2004 - 4:00am
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5 months ago
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Empty Beaches

Parents and children alike head for the playground

A hot afternoon thundershower or a sudden unanticipated heavy Atlantic Ocean fog can empty the normally crowded sands at Hampton Beach, N.H. in a heartbeat. When this happens, use of the famed summer resort’s unique playground increases dramatically. 

Parents and children alike turn to the fenced, 200-foot long by 55-foot wide playground area that is part of the white sandy beach. The facility is a combination of ever-changing old, new and modified play structures. When the beach and ocean empty of all but a few dedicated kite flyers, it is axiomatic that the fire truck, monkey bars, swings, slides and stick figure cowboys are going to get heavy use.

Commissioner Duane “Skip” Windemiller is chairman of the three-member commission that governs Hampton Beach Village. In his 15th term on the council, he also heads the playground committee. Windemiller explained that their peerless playground is reserved free of charge for all children up to the age of 12. It is open year-round to both residents and visitors. This includes the bright warm days of summer when the sand, ocean and other local amusements are in full swing. It also includes the rare mid-winter days when cross-country skiing on the snow-covered sands is a popular pastime.

Empty Beaches

“Our playground’s beginning in 1917 is all but lost somewhere in the archives of history,” commented Windemiller. “The original dedication banner read ‘The John C. White Memorial Playground.’ That was in honor of the forward-thinking shopkeeper who recognized the needs of the young children of the time and did something about it.” 

It was located to the north of its present location back then. That all changed when the Village remodeled the area and built the Seashell Stage facility. At that time the playground was relocated further south to its present location. 

“We try very diligently to have age appropriate play structures for all age groups,” added Windemiller. “The Village updates them by adding something new every year. Only a few years back we held a successful fundraising drive and added the multiple units from Playstructures, Inc., which was a major expense for us, but well worth it.”    

The playground is not fully handicap accessible because of its compact size. To address this in part, the Village purchased several sand tire wheelchairs. These are also available free of charge on a first come basis. 

Empty Beaches

Chief of Lifeguards Jim DeLuca said that the lifeguard station at the Seashell Stage has control of the wheelchairs. He also explained that a special wooden access ramp has been built down to the ocean to accommodate these special wheelchairs.

It is of great interest to note the extreme changes in economic times, attitudes toward children, playgrounds, safety and the present day concerns for them as from the time Hampton was founded in 1638 under the leadership of the Rev. Stephen Bachiler.

Quoting from a tomb at the Tuck Museum of the Hampton Historical Society, we see that for the next two centuries, the children’s lives were very different from what they are at the present time.  

“There were no playgrounds because there was no time for play back then. Grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and up to a dozen or more children normally lived and worked together. The home was often the workplace. A crowded house and busy adults meant that children seldom were separated from the adult world.

Schooling was sporadic and then only a seasonal activity. Playgrounds were unknown because children’s labor was needed on the farm. Even the smallest and youngest child could feed the chickens or help gather food!”

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