On an overcast and cool May 4, 2016, a group of volunteers and Emerald Isle residents planted 1,500 sea-oat seedlings at The Point in a record two-hours as part of the Save the Dunes Initiative. Volunteers included members of the Emerald Isle Garden Club, the Turtle Patrol, and The Point/Wyndtree Property Owners Association. Paul Schwartz and Carl Klee coordinated The Point 2016 project on behalf of the Initiative, spearheaded and led by Carla Stevens and Kevin Geraghty, with support from Emerald Isle’s Town Manager, Frank Rush, and a donation by Dr. Charles Mess, who owns the octagonal house by The Point's entrance ramp.
Save the Dunes Initiative originated in 2011 when the Aquarium asked for volunteers to plant sea oats at the Western Beach Access. About 500 unused plants were given to Carla Stevens to be planted in front of Lands End eastern walkway. Two years later, the seedlings helped to build a sizable frontal dune. With this success in mind, in January of 2015 Kevin Geraghty and Carla Stevens proposed a sea oats planting project for Emerald Isle. Frank Rush suggested the beach access at The Point.
Save the Dunes Initiative aims to: rebuild dune structure where needed and raise awareness of how dunes protect our beaches. Emerald Isle must safeguard its greatest asset - its crystal blue waters and beautiful beaches – with environment-friendly efforts like this one.
Volunteering for the Initiative is easy, lots of fun, a great way to catch up with neighbors and make new friends. It takes two minutes to learn what to do, and at end of a planting session, Carla Stevens offers scrumptious, home-made chocolate chip cookies. It’s also a terrific way to learn about ocean-dune preservation, a hands-on opportunity for the young and young-at-heart alike.
The ideal time for planting sea oats is early May for successful growth, according to Steve Mercer of Coastal Transplants, although planting can be done as late as October.
In addition to The Point planting (the first took place in 2015), a number of oceanfront homeowners have asked to be considered for 2016 plantings. Many have erected sand fences, a good first step. Save the Dunes Initiative will prioritize plantings, starting with the Town of Emerald Isle, followed by Home Owners Associations (HOAs), and then individual homeowners’ oceanfront properties, depending on the availability of resources and volunteers.
Costs for plantings include the purchase of sea oats for about $.60/plant delivered, with a minimum order of three hundred plants, plus slow-release fertilizer and signage. Projects will be funded by the Town of Emerald Isle, HOAs, property owners, and private donations.
Why should we help build and protect dune structures? Emerald Isle is built on rock with a Continental Shelf that slopes at a very slight angle away from our beaches, one of the Island’s great advantages. Since the size of a wave is directly proportional to the depth of the water, a shallow slope matters a lot when it comes to wave erosion. For example, a forty foot depth can generate a thirty-five to forty foot wave, depending on tides and winds. Fortunately, here such depths occur several miles from shore. By the time large waves arrive on shore, they dwindle down to a range of two to four feet. The slope of our Continental Shelf is our first line of defense against storm damage.
The second line is the frontal dune structure, which protects all the vegetation zones and benefits the entire island. As fine sand catches onto sea oat reeds, it builds up dunes. Each season dune width and height increase in a seaward direction toward the source of blowing sand. Sea oats are native to our coast and produce rhizomes or runners that allow new plants to multiply and grow. This is how they catch more sand and continue to build the dunes. Everyone who uses the beach can leave a smaller footprint by staying off the dunes.
A second planting of 600 sea oats will take place on May 18th at Lands End Clubhouse. Volunteers are needed. Bring your trowels and your garden gloves. A third planting of 450 sea oats will take place on May 28th at 9 am near the Lands End east walkway. Please contact Carla Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org) to volunteer.
Homeowner’s associations and individual homeowners interested in rebuilding their immediate dunes in 2017 should contact Carla Stevens or Kevin Geraghty. The HOA or the individual homeowner acts as project coordinator for their project and will be responsible for the purchase of the plants. They will receive guidelines and help from the Save the Dunes team. Please contact Carla Stevens (email@example.com) (252 764 2160) or Kevin Geraghty (firstname.lastname@example.org)(919) 697-7636) if you have questions or if you would like to volunteer. Remember: it’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s the best way to keep our Crystal Coast beautiful for years to come.