The Salvo Day Use Cemetery received a much-needed boost over the weekend thanks to a new barrier of sandbags to protect the fragile gravesites.
The cemetery, which is located on National Park Service land within the popular Salvo Day Use Area just south of the tri-villages, has been battered by storms and erosion, and has rapidly deteriorated to the dismay of the descendants of the islanders who are buried there.
Headstones have broken, washed away, or have been removed by concerned family members who worry they could disappear altogether, and tombs have become exposed as the soundfront area steadily recedes.
But this new barricade of sandbags will help protect the gravesites and will serve as a temporary fix for future storms.
“It’s definitely temporary – it’s not going to sustain for years,” says Jenny Creech, president of the Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society. “But it is a huge help. Two graves were exposed completely, and this is going to keep those from washing out.”
“We placed the sandbags right where the erosion was, and we placed the headstones on higher ground so when we do have a permanent resolution, we can put them back where they go.”
Funds for the project came from a number of fundraisers conducted by the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association, and the sandbag project has been in the works for several years. “The Civic Association has been working on this for a while, trying to figure out some sort of resolution,” says Jenny.
Endurance Marine and Dave Swanner performed the work over the weekend alongside a number of volunteers who stopped by to lend a hand during the project, which lasted from Thursday until Saturday.
The barrier is made up of 10-15 ft. long sandbags, that weight close to 4,000 pounds each. Now that they have been placed at the site, the sandbags will take the brunt of the wave activity, sparing the cemetery from further erosion.
Though the cemetery is surrounded by National Park Service lands, the NPS worked in conjunction with the team to get the barrier in place. “The Parks Service was actually great, and was cooperative with giving us the space to do what we needed to do on their property, so we could get to the graveyard,” says Jenny.
Plans are also in the works for a more permanent solution which will entail creating a bulkhead around the site. “We’re waiting for a grant to come through to do the bulkheading,” says Jenny.
“There’s not an exact timeframe yet, but we’re for hoping for sooner rather than later… Hopefully, by the fall or the beginning of next year, we will have that in place.”
In the meantime, the new barrier has already faced a bit of a test due to high winds that have lingered all week long. But Jenny reports that the newly placed sandbags are working, and are doing their job.
“I’ve gone out there every day after work and we’re holding up good,” she says. “I’m so grateful for [this project.] It was like getting Christmas and your birthday all at once.”