About 20 volunteers were happy to do something for Ocracoke by planting marsh grasses Friday, May 18, at Springer’s Point on Ocracoke for a Coastal Land Trust project.
Springer’s Point, at the end of Loop Road, is part of a 122-acre nature preserve owned by the trust. About 300 feet of eroded coastline is the target of restoration.
The two-phase project included first placing a “living shoreline,” composed of many bags of oyster shells along the water’s edge, parallel to the beach to build the buffer between the sound and the maritime forest.
Eventually, oyster spat, which are juvenile oysters, will find the shells and grow over time to create a living reef, explained Erin Fleckenstein, northeast coastal scientist with the North Carolina Coastal Federation in Manteo. The Coastal Land Trust hired the federation to design and implement the project.
“By protecting this point we’re helping to stabilize the shoreline,” Fleckenstein explained. “The roots of the grasses will spread and catch sand to also build habitat.”
The goal is for the oyster-bag sill to buffer wind and wave-driven erosion so that the shore can build naturally and not be a “hardened” shoreline (such as with bulkheads).
Earlier this spring, the federation reconfigured the existing jetty of rocks, cement, and debris, making it smaller.
“Such jetties prevent the shoreline from acting like a natural system, which ‘rolls back’ with coastal storms and then rebuilds over time,” according to information provided by the Trust. “This is due to the fact that the preserve’s shoreline had previously been altered by a jetty and concrete rip-rap, and because adjoining developed properties prevent roll back and rebuilding. As a result, areas behind and south of the old concrete rip-rap became scalloped out and eroded.”
The volunteers on Friday planted 2,000 marsh grass plants in the area between the oyster sill and the land. The area is now fenced off to walkers so that the plants can take root. Preserve steward Len Skinner worked alongside the volunteers building the fences as the planting progressed.
“Foot traffic undermines the root system,” Fleckenstein said.
Fleckenstein said the federation has successfully done more than 19 such projects along the coast and at other conservation lands, such as Jockey’s Ridge State Park and Hammocks beach State Park.
“Hopefully, in a year, we will see some improvement,” she said. “We’ll come back and plant again and again.”
Lee Leidy, northeast region director, said the trust prefers to keep natural shorelines natural. So, as stewards of the preserve, they need to stop it from eroding further.
Ocracoke residents and visitors cheerily joined in the planting under cloudy skies.
“It’s great to do something for Springer’s Point,” said Ann Ehringhaus, as she gazed at the area. “It’s historic, it’s beautiful and it’s old Ocracoke.”
“I love to bring the grandchildren down here,” said Jen Esham as she placed plantlings in the sandy water.
Aleina Milligan and Roger Abner, of Columbia, Ky., who were staying for a week, joined in.
“The island is such a magical place,” Milligan said. “It’s nice to give something back.”
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