After years of efforts, the formation of a protective bulkhead and armor rock barrier along the Salvo Day Use Cemetery was finally completed, providing much-needed protection for the vulnerable site that has been battered and eroded by sound flooding during storms.
Engineer John DeLucia of Albemarle & Associates, Ltd. has been a point person for the project since coming up with original plans and estimates in 2013, and he says the quick completion of the project once funds were in place was due to a group effort.
“Everyone was cooperative, and we appreciate the help that everyone has given to get this project accomplished,” he said. “Everybody involved wanted to see the cemetery protected.”
The 146-year-old cemetery, which is bordered on all sides by National Park Service land within the popular Salvo Day Use Area, was devastated by storms and erosion, particularly for the past five to 10 years. Originally plotted in 1872, the historic cemetery with gravesites from the 19th and 20th centuries had steadily deteriorated to the dismay of the descendants of the islanders buried there.
By 2016, headstones had broken, washed away, or had been removed by concerned family members who worried they could disappear altogether, and tombs were becoming exposed as the soundfront area steadily receded from a regular onslaught of high water and waves.
Two local groups, Hatteras Island Genealogical and Historic Preservation Society and the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association, had long been concerned about the eroding shoreline in front of the historic community cemetery, and hosted fundraisers and online fundraising campaigns to raise the estimated $120,000 to protect the site.
Locally raised funds placed sandbags in front of the cemetery in 2017, and the temporary protection helped for the short term, but wasn’t nearly enough.
However, funds for a long-term solution were finally obtained when Dare County applied for and received a $162,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to protect the cemetery. The state funds received were allocated to fix cemeteries affected by Hurricane Matthew, which certainly included the Salvo site. Permits from the Division of Coastal Management and the National Park Service also made the project possible, and after an April 25, 2018 Notice to Proceed was issued, construction began quickly in early May.
Hatchell Concrete served as the general contractor for the project, and Millstone Marine was the subcontractor tackling the bulkhead portion of the endeavor.
The site now has about 230 feet of vinyl bulkhead, (which is more solid than wood), which was designed to stand 5 feet above sea level. 525 cubic yards of sand was also placed behind the bulkhead, and armor stone was added along the soundfront edges of the bulkhead for further protection.
“The bulkheading itself was designed to take away wave action, and putting the stone in front of it adds a double layer of protection,” said DeLucia. “The armor stone helps eliminate erosion near the bulkhead, and provides an extra barrier of protection [for the cemetery.]”
The project, which had a final site review on Monday, June 18, was also able to be completed without disturbing any of the existing gravesites.
“Some of the graves that were either fallen over or relocated needed to be reset to where they were originally,” said DeLucia. “We had to move some of them back [on the property] because we were afraid they would fall into sound, but we didn’t encounter any gravesites when putting in the bulkhead.”
There’s still a little work remaining for the community volunteers, such as cleaning the site, and ensuring the gravesites are properly set. But after years of efforts, the descendants of the Salvo Day Use Cemetery can breathe a little easier, knowing that the site and their loved ones will be protected in the storms to come.
“The sound was just eating away at the cemetery before,” said DeLucia, “but we’re in much better shape now. [The contractors] did a great job, and we are very happy with the outcome.”