City of Portsmouth Receives Nearly $50,000 in “Moose Plate” Grants for Wetlands Conservation and Preservation of Historic Cemeteries and Documents

February 21, 2023

In the past four months, the City of Portsmouth has accepted three grants from the New Hampshire State Library: a $9,682 grant for the preservation of historic City documents and to rebuild the wall around Point of Graves Burial Ground (the City’s oldest cemetery), $20,000 for delineating wetlands within the City limits, and a third $20,000 for preservation work on the wall facing North Mill Pond in North Cemetery.

In announcing the grant awards, City Director of Finance and Administration Judie Belanger noted, "Without the support of the Moose Plate Grants from the NH State Library these project expenditures would not have been possible in as timely a manner. Sharing the investment in preserving New Hampshire's history is a great example of the collaborative initiatives that Moose Plate grants are intended to serve." 

The efforts to restore, preserve and digitize official, historic City documents are part of a 20-year $3 million Capital Improvement Plan project to protect more than 500 documents of historical and legal significance. Grant funds allow the City to shorten the timeframe of this project so that some of the more damaged books, some of the City’s oldest treasures, are preserved. 

In the grant applications for the Moose Plate funding, Finance Department Project Manager Abby Mills noted, “As the City celebrates its 400th Anniversary in 2023 it is our goal to highlight the importance of our restoration and preservation initiatives as part of that celebration. The grant allows us to preserve documents that cover an important timeline in Portsmouth and in New Hampshire: from the Presidency of Franklin Peirce in 1853 (New Hampshire’s only US President) to the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the decline and regrowth of Portsmouth’s economy. They are records of the City’s proud service to our country during these times of conflict.”

The wetlands grant allows the Planning and Sustainability Department to complete the following tasks: 1) hire a wetland scientist to perform an updated delineation of the City’s wetland boundaries (previously done in 2002); 2) digitize the updated boundaries and buffers; and 3) coordinate outreach efforts to inform the City, wetland abutters and other impacted groups, such as the Conservation Commission and Planning Board, of the updated delineation.

The North Cemetery grant is for rebuilding a stone retaining wall at the North Cemetery along the North Mill Pond. Once the Cemetery Committee identified the rebuilding of the wall as a priority need, member Eva Boice prepared the application and Committee Co-Chair Susan Sterry worked with a local contractor and the Department of Public Works to obtain the needed estimate. In addition to the Moose Plate Grant, the DPW has identified an additional $9,000 to meet the total cost of Phase 1 of the project. The contractor and DPW will conduct and oversee the work

City Cemetery Committee co-chair Susan Sterry said, “The City’s Cemetery Committee was created in 2021 to encourage the restoration, preservation and safeguarding of Portsmouth’s historic cemeteries and their history for future generations. The Committee determined that rebuilding the retaining walls at the 1671 Point of Graves Burial Ground and National Register of Historic Places North Cemetery were top priorities and worked to provide the documentation and rationale required by the NH State Library to consider our two Moose Plate applications. We are delighted that the Governor and Executive Council approved the grants. The Cemetery Committee’s work continues.”

These preservation projects were made possible through funds received from the sale of New Hampshire Moose Conservation License Plates, administered by the New Hampshire State Library, a division of the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Grants are available to public institutions with publicly owned documents that are significant to the history of New Hampshire. For more information on the Moose License Plate program visit:


Point of Graves Burial Ground