Letter to Editor: Build Dunes That Can Pass the Test of Time
Ocean City resident Peaches Lukens asks the city to consider forming a research committee to plan for a durable dune system.
To the editor:
The city and state's plan to spend $10 million more of taxpayers money on beach replenishment is as unrealistic as building a sand castle on the beach today and expecting it to still be there a year from now.
The nature of barrier islands seems to be completely overlooked for far too long. Though "city" by all appearances, this city is built basically on a seven-mile-long sandbar. Sand moves.
Tidal currents and wind move it. Some areas of the island collect this moving sand, while other areas lose it. It's the way all barrier islands work, past and present.
All kinds of contraptions and superficial remedies cannot compare to the way nature dictates. Instead of dumping more sand, we need to rebuild what was once here. Dunes!!
Not measly dunes built on top of gargantuan sand bags or dotted with some grass, but dunes thick and wide with ample shrubs and dwarf trees whose root systems hold sand in place.
A healthy barrier island beach consists of about 9 "zones." Five of them make up various parts of an island's vital dune system. We barely have one of those important zones, let alone five that are needed. Avalon and Cape May Point are great models for dune development and the protection they serve. We can easily see the repercussions of duneless islands such as the sad devastation of Seaside Heights. Funtown Amusement Park sat like a sitting duck on a defenseless beach, only feet from the ocean. It was only a matter of time a storm would wash it away.
Developing adequate dunes unfortunately paints a dismal picture for all those first-floor home owners seeking an ocean view, but those days are gone if we really want to find some long-term solutions for our eroding beaches. The whole island depends upon such a line of defense. Hindsight is 20/20.
If we knew back then, what we know now, we hopefully wouldn't have built so close to the ocean or ground floor homes on the beach. We cant tear down homes to widen the beaches, but we can begin to reconstruct some of the natural order of barrier island ecology, by building adequate and healthy dunes one row at a time. Once one row is well-established, sand collects in front of it and another dune line can be established. Building out as we go. This also provides food, habitat and shelter for a host of native wildlife that migrate through or live alongside us on this wee li'l island.
Long-lasting solutions are at hand and fairly easy to put in motion, so why aren't we considering these?
How many more years are we going to throw money away and sand on the beach thinking that's the best we have?
I encourage the administration alongside their Environmental Commission to create a research and planning committee to get going on these dunes before the next Big One ... which could come our way again sooner than we think and right now we have virtually no dunes to protect us!