Star Island prepares to reopen
Destination closed to visitors last year; limited access this summer
By CASEY MCDERMOTT
NH Public Radio
Like a lot of New Hampshire summer landmarks, Star Island – the historic Seacoast destination for artists, daytrippers, environmentalists and others drawn to its idyllic shores – closed to the public last summer due to the pandemic. But now, it’s getting ready to open back up to visitors.
“The hope is that we will be able to do a lot of the things that we would normally do, that people normally expect, when they visit Star Island,” said Star Island CEO Joe Watts, “and even the things that we have to modify, that we will achieve some of the same goals.”
Some safety measures will still be in place. While the island will be open for day trips and a full lineup of summer conferences, it will not host individual visitors for “personal retreats” as it has in past years, according to its website.
The island’s conference center will only host about 60 percent of its typical overnight guest capacity, and all overnight visitors will need to provide “a recent (within 72 hours), negative COVID-19 PCR test result immediately prior to arrival on the island.” Masks will also be required in all indoor settings, Watts said, regardless of someone’s vaccination status. But masks will not be required outdoors, where most of the island’s activity takes place.
Some other traditional island activities, like the Artist in Residence program, are also still on hold due to COVID-19 – though Watts said that could change, depending on how the summer shapes up.
“Health and safety is our top priority,” Watts said. “But we’ve realized we can layer in some additional things, and it’s possible we’ll see that program return. And if it doesn’t for some reason this year, we fully intend to have it return in 2022.”
A few ferries are already starting to shuttle visitors out of Rye Harbor and Portsmouth, and Watts says a small crew of staff are already back on the island, preparing for a full opening in mid-June. Watts, too, will make his first trip back to the island since before the pandemic on Wednesday – accompanying the Rye Fire Department for the island’s annual safety inspection.
“The first time you set foot on Star Island, whether it’s the first time you’ve ever been there or whether you’re returning after an absence, it’s a special day,” Watts said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.
Last year is believed to be the first time New Hampshire’s Star Island was closed to visitors since World War II, according to staff.
DAN TUOHY / NHPR