Tower takeover unlikely … RCD gets real … Star Island regroups … 4 winter Farmers Markets … Donor towns gird for battle … New Library director … Parr in N.E. Hall of Fame

Staff of Rye Reflections

Pulpit Rock rocks … and gets rocked

View through new wire grating from Pulpit Rock Tower as Open House drew 200-plus to refurbished structure. (Judy Palm photos)

Law prevents Selectmen from agreeing
to binding Pulpit Rock Tower conditions

The Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower, led by Patty Weathersby, find themselves between a rock and a hard place — and that's no joke.

After months of meetings, physical labor, money raising and research, the group learned of a "stumbling block" that apparently would nix a deal to have the Town of Rye take over the 84-foot cement tower just off Route 1-A a short distance north of Wallis Sands Beach.

Told by the Board of Selectmen on Oct. 20 that the Town could not legally prohibit a future board or a vote of the townspeople from using the World War II tower as a cellphone relay point or for some other purpose, Weathersby responded, "I'm frankly frustrated at the Town's position. The stumbling block is the inability to make a commitment on cellphones." She said it was a matter of reciprocity in return for cleaning up the edifice, putting a grid on the windows to keep birds out, replacing the railing and fixing up the grounds, all of which the Friends have done in cooperation with the Fish & Game Commission which in 1978 took over the property and no longer has use for it.

The Friends had just come off a successful Open House on Oct, 18, when in the period of four hours more than 200 persons, mostly from Rye, checked out the tower. "I'm almost 80 and made it to the top," Jane Holway told the board. "I had to stop and rest halfway up, but I was amazed what good shape it was in." Others also raved about the cleanup as well as the view.

Nevertheless, a draft of a letter to the Friends by Town counsel Michael Donovan (made public by the board) listed several legal issues, one of which stated that the Board could not bind future boards or a vote of the townspeople from changing the conditions of the Tower's use. "We need something in return," said Weathersby, who along with neighbors is concerned about the health hazards of living so close to a cell tower system.

Selectman Craig Musselman responded that the board's hands were legally tied, explaining further that a few years from now if three different Selectmen occupied the board chairs and they wanted to add cell repeaters in return for $40,000 or so "it would be their right."

Conservation Commission chairman Jim Raynes was in the audience and said the Commission could be interested in the tower and said he would explore the matter. Meanwhile, Weathersby and Betsey McNaughten, land agent for Fish & Game, said they would probably approach the Department of Resources and Economic Development next.

"You're trying to unload it, right?" Selectman Joe Mills asked McNaughten. "Yes," she responded.

But there is this stumbling block... "We have tried," said Musselman as the fifth meeting on the subject since May of 2008 concluded. Meanwhile, a blank spot for cellphone use remains along Rye's coast.

A second Open House will be held Saturday, Nov. 7, from 10 to 2. All eight floors will be open; only the roof deck will be closed. The rough terrain makes it inadvisable for children under age 6 and persons with “mobility disabilities”. A $2 contribution is requested.

(Previous "Rye Crisp" items on this issue appeared in April 2009, October 2008, July 2008, October 2006; See pros/cons of Pulpit Rock debate in June, 2008, edition and a story on the tower itself in January, 2006, edition. See also a June, 2008 satire entitled "Pulpit Pizza").

Prepare for landing …

The Housing Partnership is poised for a groundbreaking soon after Thanksgiving for Rye's first Retirement Community Development. This layout of the housing complex shows 22 units in light orange with community center in blue at center. Entry road in purple is from Route 1. Property is located behind the Rye Skate Park on the site of the former Rye Airfield. This sketch was provided by the project architect, Khalsa Design of Somerville, Mass. The project civil engineer is Ambit Engineering of Portsmouth.

Looming on horizon …

In the afternoon of a crisp, sunny autumn day Star Island seems to gleam when viewed from onshore, sometimes even appearing to elevate.

Holding on to the "physical beauty, the historic significance, the community it engenders, the religious and educational experiences it offers, the solitude, the renewal …" is the stated goal of a recent business model put together by the Star Island Corporation as it confronts "the stark realities" of Star's financial/operational challenges.

Star Island seen from Wallis Sands with 300mm lens. (Jim Cerny photo)

Difficulties the past two years — delayed opening for building repair last year and early-season inclement weather this year — have heightened the need for course correction. Translation: a higher rate of occupancy, specifically from a recent average of 19,000 bed-nights a season to 25,000.

How? Under the new leadership of CEO Vicky Hardy, the Corporation has a four-step plan: (1) "Nurture and strengthen the existing core conferences;" (2) Add additional conferences; (3) "Continue to market the island to organizations with kindred purposes;" and (4) "Continue to market personal retreaters."

Hardy emphasizes that this is not just a plan, it's "a commitment". The key elements, she says, are the "traditional conferences" and the individual visits, "a way to introduce new people to our Star community."

The Corporation also seeks "to preserve the value" of Appledore Island — where the Shoals Marine Lab is located — as a source of income "in a manner consistent with Star Island's historic relationship with it," the report states.



Sunrise over Locke's Neck punctuates the morning on Jenness Beach by seeming to form the letter "i" with its reflections. One might call it a Rye Reflection. (Joe Wilson photo)



Built in Nova Scotia only a few years ago, the Madrigan's riggings give it the flavor of years past as the dragger (or trawler) sits at its mooring in Rye Harbor. Owners are Michael and Pat Anderson. (Jim Cerny photo)


Goods & service …

A highlight of the Rye Congregational Church's Harvest was the "cookie walk". The "cookie stripers" stand ready to help as customers don white rubber gloves to pick out their favorites. A quilt (bottom left) by Nancy-Starks-Cheney featured the silent auction. Spotted a week earlier by a man at the Cocheco Fair who was unable to buy it then, the quilt triggered a bidding war won by the Cocheco visitor. Lots of attractive gifts were donated by church members. Sharon Guerin (bottom right) greeted shoppers with a smile. (Ellen Hamil photos).

Quick index to back issues of Rye Crisp …


November, 2009