Enjoying and Protecting Our Coastal Waters

coastal view of Hampton Beach
An amazing aerial shot of the coastline at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

A confession: when I moved to New Hampshire 12 years ago, I was surprised to discover that the state had a coastline. Before transplanting from Chicago, my husband and I pulled out a map to see where our future home met the ocean. From the arcades and fried dough of Hampton Beach to the expansive sands in Rye and the rocky shoreline in between, the coast is now a part of our lives that we can’t imagine living without. In the summer our daughters spend a week in surf camp at Sawyers Beach; in the fall our dog chases seagulls and exciting smells on the shoreline before we head to Petey’s Summertime Seafood for lobster rolls and fried haddock.

It was also news to me—as I think it often is to newcomers—that New Hampshire is home to Great Bay, with its 144 miles of shoreline and 17 square miles of open water. In between the bay and the Atlantic stretch the waters of the Piscataqua River with its enormous barges, tiny tugs, and oft-photographed bridges. Flowing into the bay are seven major rivers that thread through more than 50 towns that are part of the watershed.

Great Bay Estuary
Nature at its best: Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire

For those of us lucky enough to live in the Seacoast region and the other shores of New England, water is an integral part of our lives. We kayak in the rivers and bay, take day trips to the Isles of Shoals, ice skate on frozen ponds, eagerly read weather forecasts, and wait for the snowstorms that close schools and create sledding hills.

Every Drop Counts

To embrace the significance of water in our lives and the need to protect it, a new program was launched—Every Drop—a clean-water movement that brings together many regional organizations. In my role as executive director of the Great Bay Stewards, I’m thrilled to take part in this effort and work with the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, the Nature Conservancy, the Gundalow Company, the Seacoast Science Center, and numerous other water-focused groups.

One of Every Drop’s slogans is First Enjoy, Then Protect. It’s a goal we should all carry with us. There are many easy ways to enjoy the waters that surround us — from sailing to beachcombing to slurping down a local oyster.

Protecting our waters can be very simple.

  1. Pick up dog waste.
  2. Think carefully about fertilizer usage.
  3. Join a land trust or your town’s conservation commission.
  4. Grow native plants.
  5. Create a rain garden.

I look forward to sharing with you small behavioral changes that will have a positive impact. Whatever you do to enjoy and protect the waters, let us know by tagging us wherever you are.

We look forward to hearing from you.


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Allison Knab is a New Hampshire-based freelance writer and the executive director of the nonprofit Great Bay Stewards. She has previously written for Coastal Home, the York Weekly, and the Chicago Tribune. When not writing, she can be found baking, driving her children to basketball, and serving as selectwoman for the town of Stratham.

© 2020 Coastal Design.