Beaches are one of the most iconic features of New England. While residents may visit the region's beaches year-round, summer beach tourism is one of the major industries in the area. But upstream pollution can threaten the beaches themselves as well as visitors' ability to enjoy them.
Learning more about beach visitation and pollution problems is a key focus of the NEST project. Dr. Kathleen Bell, an economist at the University of Maine and one of the co-leaders of NEST, helped organize an effort across the NEST team to better understand what beaches mean to visitors and how people use them. And although people commonly connect shellfish with the region, Bell says that beaches can be just as important. She explains, "learning more about clammers and their lives and livelihoods and their connection to the shellfish resource, to me that's fascinating. But it's equally as fascinating for me to think about the strong connections people have - both residents and visitors - with beaches."
Dr. Charlie Colgan is a professor emeritus in the Muskie School at the University of Southern Maine and deeply involved in the research work on beaches. In the summer of 2014, Colgan and several of his students conducted a survey of visitors to beaches in New Hampshire and Southern Maine. He says that beaches are very important to the region, explaining, "you're talking about a really valuable resource both in terms of the flow of business in the summer...but it's also very important as an asset for the region." Colgan also says that while the Maine-New Hampshire border clearly separates the beaches between each state, borders aren't as important for visitors. "The New Hampshire management system is different than the Maine beach management system. But in terms of the way people use them they don't necessarily think about it that way. They just think about their local beach," he said.
Bell explains that local beaches make up a regional economy worth preserving, saying "we realize these beaches play this key role in the in the local and regional economy and many of these coastal areas. What NEST is trying to pay attention to is might there be some water quality and public health issues and if there are how can we make sure that we protect those economic assets?" She continued by saying that people have important connections with beaches in New England, which NEST wants to encourage: "We're doing science to make sure that those beaches continue to maintain those ties."
You can interact with the panoramas below to get a sense of the similarities and differences across some of the beaches in Maine and New Hampshire. Click the play button, and then click and drag to move the view on each of the beaches. To change which beach you're viewing, click the small images at the bottom of the box.
Lamoine Beach Park in Maine serves as both a beach and a clam flat. Listen to the file below to hear the sounds on a typical beach day. The area is currently closed to shellfish harvesting due to pollution issues.
To place yourself at the beaches and get a sense of what it is like to be there, watch the short videos below. Note the differences in visitor numbers, landscape, and infrastructure at each location. These are only some of the many beaches in the area that residents and visitors frequent every year, but NEST is focused on beaches across the region and is trying to make sure that people can continue to enjoy them for many decades to come.
Hampton Beach State Park, NH: South
Hampton Beach State Park, NH: North
Old Orchard Beach, ME: The Pier
Reid State Park, ME: Mile Beach