Cleaning Up Great Bay – One Volunteer at a Time

Peter Wellenberger

If you look around the Seacoast, you will discover some remarkable volunteers helping to protect the Great Bay estuary. Recognizing that stormwater is a major source of nitrogen pollution, these volunteers are leading the way to cleaner water by simply lending a hand.

Durham is one Great Bay community implementing innovative solutions to reduce stormwater pollution. In collaboration with the UNH Stormwater Center and EPA, the town in 2010 installed a bioretention system (rain gardens) at the Pettee Brook Lane parking lot – the town’s largest municipal lot. The system was designed to optimize the removal of phosphorus and nitrogen.

Great Bay Volunteers

The Portsmouth Women’s Giving Circle helped do maintenance and install more plants at Durham’s rain gardens. Pictured are (counter clockwise): Meg and Tania Marino, Anne Pinciaro, Bobbie Cyrus, Mai Buker, Town Engineer Dave Cedarholm, Francie Osgood, and Rebecca Hennessy. Photo Courtesy of DPW.

The system was in dire need of maintenance in order to keep functioning properly. To meet the challenge, a large group of Oyster River Middle School students and teachers removed all the debris that had accumulated in the lot’s central rain garden. This work was followed by 7 volunteers from the Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle who spent a rainy Thursday morning cleaning out the smaller rain garden near the entrance of the lot and planting 20 additional plants in both gardens. The efforts of these volunteers will make the gardens more efficient and help to beautify the area – benefitting both local residents and merchants. To learn more about the value of rain gardens and how they function, click here.

Another volunteer, Michael Lambert of Exeter, took a different approach to help limit pollution in Great Bay. He was concerned that people in Exeter might not realize they are connected to people in Milton and Rochester through the same watershed and estuary. With the help of the Great Bay Research Reserve and town officials, he decided to install a map of the estuary near Swasey Parkway along the Squamscott River.

Michael’s efforts were recently unveiled during a public presentation. Mounted on stone, the map will help future generations understand that all the estuary’s communities are connected and must work together to protect this extraordinary natural resource.

A special thanks to these outstanding individuals for caring so deeply about the future of the Great Bay estuary and for making a difference. You can also learn more about the work of other individuals, like Bill Stewart of New Castle.

Furthermore, if you would like to join in and volunteer to help save Great Bay for future generations there are many opportunities to get involved. Email me at or visit the Research Reserve’s Great Bay Discovery Center to learn more.

Ultimately, everyone can make a difference by being responsible for their communities.

For more information about the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper and my work to protect the Great Bay estuary, visit: You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Great Bay Map

Great Bay map along the Squamscott River in downtown Exeter

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