Editorial: Of sand, erosion, and trees
The next 12 months will bring their share of sunny days, beach days, and northeast storms. Storms and the beach don’t mix. In a century, Gloucester and Mathews counties have lost a heartbreaking area of sandy beach to the ravages of hurricanes, northeasters, and everyday run-of-the-mill storms.
Some blame the loss on the rising sea level, some on removal of dunes decades ago for road building. We have seen ads in our old papers promising prosecution of persons who removed dunes.
The deed is done and the dunes are gone, and the beaches are mostly gone, and still going. Anyone visiting our sandy shorelines may encounter the roots and stumps of long-dead pine trees offshore. These are the roots of trees that once held the beaches in place.
Before another year of loss passes, we urge state and local authorities to investigate a program of beach replenishment that is being tried in other locations.
A quick internet search discovered such programs at Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama; Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach, N.C.; Topsail Beach, N.C.; and under consideration on the Superstorm Sandy ravaged shorelines of New Jersey.
It is also being tried on the beach of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. A release said "This annual event has been held on base for six years and is considered a great success. There has been a steady increase in the amount of trees donated as well as volunteers to support the effort."
The programs satisfy two needs: A place to dispose of Christmas trees, and an effort to rebuild the beaches.
A huge wrinkle in the proposal would be created by excessive red tape. As local homeowners have discovered, it is a slow and exacting process to take any measures to preserve the shoreline. Local, state and sometimes federal officials have to be satisfied and, in the meantime, the sand continues eroding, quite rapidly.
We call upon our local officials to look into the idea. It seems so simple, and makes so much sense at first inspection. With a full year ahead of us, there is plenty of time for people who know and care about beaches to look into this program. It won’t be long before residents are taking down their Christmas trees again. Wouldn’t it be great if they can be put to use?