Editorial: Hometown lost and found: The disappearing shoreline
"Hometown lost and found" is an occasional commentary about people, places and things that make up our community. It has been absent for a while, but at this time of high summer, our thoughts turn to beaches, and what has been lost; and to what, if anything, can be done.
The topic this week, in one word: Shorelines.
It is no secret that erosion takes a terrible toll every year on this area’s most exposed shorelines. Islands, marshes, wide beaches, and even large pieces of land have disappeared.
A century ago, developers planned a huge housing complex and resort around New Point Comfort Lighthouse. Today, the area proposed for this oasis is covered by Chesapeake Bay waters. The lighthouse stands on a pile of rocks, awaiting a promised breakwater that, at least, will offer some protection against the worst waves of a hurricane.
But think what has been lost!
New Point is just the most visible instance of hundreds in this area that have suffered tremendous loss.
Thoughtless practices, such as taking sand for the dirt roads, driving on beaches, and burning marshes, have weakened our shorelines’ resistance to a rising water level and to northeast winds.
At the same time, "dredging" seems to be a dirty word, and authorities grope for places to put dredged material. A generation ago, a suggestion to the Army Corps of Engineers to put Chesapeake Bay dredged material around the lighthouse went nowhere.
We can only imagine the worst; at the present rate of erosion, what our shorelines will be like (and how far back from the present line) in one more century? Land is lost daily. The waters advance. It is heartbreaking, and there seems no concerted effort or even interest in stopping the loss, much less in rebuilding the original condition.
At the height of summer, we cling to our fondness for the waves, the sun, and for beaches, and for the curative relaxation of standing barefoot in the sand, on the edge where the land meets the open water.
"Beach season" means little more now than fleeting enjoyment. A jigsaw puzzle of private ownership, insufficient money to do anything, and no priority given at any level of government to address the problems, makes "beach" itself a fleeting concept for the future.
Often quoted, during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is the statistic that Louisiana is losing a football field’s worth of wetlands every 30 minutes. We are not sure what the rate of loss is in Virginia; possibly less, but over the course of a few years, noticeably significant.
Yes, shorelines have been lost. There is little to be "found" in this article. But if authorities and landowners could concentrate some attention on this problem, and find a solution and some money, and find the will to halt the loss, our commonwealth would enjoy a tremendous benefit.
If you can suggest a feature for future Hometown Lost and Found columns, please call 693-3101 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Old photos are welcome.