New CEO: ‘I want to encourage people to come here’

May 18, 2008
By Karen Dandurant

May 18, 2008 6:00 AM

RYE — The new chief executive officer of the Star Island Corp. at the Isles of Shoals has a goal of bringing the island up to code and into the 21st century.

Of course, visiting Star Island is a bit like stepping back in time, and that’s important to many of the regular visitors.

And that means walking a fine line to accomplish both objectives.

Victoria Hardy said the island is part of Rye and the Seacoast community and, as such, it needs to be more accessible to the public.

“I want to encourage people to come here,” Hardy said. “I am looking at promoting a lot more day trips, and offering incentives like ‘dinner and a mooring.’ We are partnering with the staff at the Wentworth by the Sea to maybe donate box lunches. They are going to provide executive training for our food service people. They, in turn, want information about Star Island to give to their guests.”

Hardy said making the island more open also offers a chance to explore new revenue sources in addition to the seminars and retreats now held there.

“We are looking to revive the island as a location for photo shoots,” Hardy said. “We’re looking at weddings, in a gentle sort of way. We plan to invite all the wedding planners this summer. We could also host a Seacoast Day.”

Hardy said it might soon have a lobster license and be able to offer that on the menu occasionally.

She’s also toying with the idea of creating an ocean pool that would be more child-friendly and would create less parent anxiety about little ones in the ocean.

Last year, Star Island had to delay its June opening after its main building failed a fire and safety code inspection. Hardy is tackling that head-on.

Working with Keith Noyes, the newly hired director of operations and maintenance, all systems are being checked and upgraded. Fire alarm systems are installed in every building, with a master monitoring system at the front desk of the Oceanic Hotel. Exit plans are being created.

Noyes, who was director of public works in Exeter for 27 years, is up to the task and is excited about the challenge.

“I grew up in Rye Beach,” Noyes said. “Since I was 14, I crewed on the charter boats, so when I saw the job, it sparked my interest. I will live here for four months out of the year. My wife, Bonnie, will join me.”

Noyes said he was overwhelmed when he first began looking at the island’s needs.

“Then I found that the basic foundations of the buildings are sound,” he said. “A lot of the work is cosmetic. I plan to spend the summer assessing, and in the fall come up with a five-year, prioritized plan.”

The corporation has received a $100,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church at Shelter Rock in Long Island.

Noyes has already “spent” it, he said.

Opening day is dependent on passing the inspection. Hardy said she’s not worried.

“We are working closely with the Rye Fire Department’s inspectors,” Hardy said. “They approved our plan in January. A more formal inspection is coming, and we are doing a major top-to-bottom assessment of each building, inside and out.”

Hardy was a consultant in the arts and entertainment industry for more than 20 years.

“I used to tell them that those inspectors are doing us a favor,” she said. “We can learn from them. Plus, it helps with the insurance and can lower premiums.”

On health safety issues, Star Island Corp. is contracting with Boston Medical Services, which will be able to land a helicopter on the island.

A sea of volunteers is busy right now getting the island ready for the anticipated June 14 opening. Carpenters are shoring up the Oceanic’s large veranda-style porch. Flowers are being planted and tended.

“It’s a challenge, because the window for repairs is so short once we can get out here,” Hardy said.

While working to modernize, Hardy is aware of the value of keeping the many island traditions. In fact, she might even bring an old one back.

Star Island is self-sufficient. It treats its own waste, uses salt water to flush toilets, uses reverse osmosis to use salt water as drinking water, composts and recycles everything.

At one time, the island had pigs.

“We’re exploring bringing back pigs,” Hardy said. “If we’re going to be self-sufficient, pigs are very useful. They eat all the scraps.”

Here’s the funny part.

Young people who work the summer season on Star Island are affectionately called Pelicans.

“When we had pigs, it was the job of one of the Pelicans to put suntan lotion on the piglets,” said former Star Island board member Irene Bush. “We are on a rock, an island. They get sunburned.”

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