Starting back in the spring of 2015, the Cape Charles Beach has been the deposit site for over 100,000 cubic yards of dredge material (this total includes the latest 30,000 cubic yards deposited this summer), as part of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ federal harbor dredging project. The additional sand has brought with it additional problems, mainly how to control dune height as well as how to keep and manage the influx of new sand. This spring, Town Council tasked the Dune and Wetlands with researching and coming up with series of recommendations on how approach our dune management problem and come up with a series of best management practices.
The Board conducted thorough research, including contacting Scott Hardaway at VIMS and Lee Perkins, the City of Norfolk, Manager of Environmental Services, who has over thirty years of beach and dune management experience. While there are similarities between Norfolk’s and Cape Charles’ Bay fronts, they differ in layout. Norfolk’s public boardwalk and street is next to dunes with houses buffered in between.
One of the biggest complaints by Cape Charles Residents (actually, only 7 people responded to the Board’s questionnaire) is that the dunes are too high and block the view. While the Board has given “serious consideration to citizen’s requests for establishing a set dune height, e. g, 3’ above boardwalk which is 8.5’ above sea level” , careful review of data, studies and guidelines, as well as input from Mr. Hardaway(VIMS) and Mr. Perkins, the Board found no criteria that would justify lowering the dunes to a specific height.
The basic recommendation is to “leave existing dunes, extend them seaward and plant with American Beach Grass (ABG) to trap sand on beach and prevent the dunes from becoming taller.”
One of the first things is that the Town should clear/move sand t o make one access point for people and equipment next to the pier. Close the other one in the middle of the dune by filling in with sand. Then, leave the large flat area in front for gathering/picnic tables on the boardwalk side.
Then, move any excess sand at the south end to fill shallow hole by Madison and any remaining to the north end (do not move sedge grass to other parts of the beach).
The Board also recommends that the town spray/kill the sedge grass before it can spread and before it goes dormant – use Round up with dye. Moving the volleyball courts away from the base of the dunes south to higher areas with more sand (closer to pier) is also recommended.
Instead of blocking beach access walkways, use the fence to define dune “wings” next to the walkway access points along the entire beach to prevent sand from blowing into the walkways. USACE should also install new sand fences seaward away from the existing dune line, NOT at the toe of the existing dune (approximately 20’ seaward of dune line when adequate space exists).
The Town should purchase ABG to be planted later – need to order in advance so grass can be grown. (about $70 for 1000 scrapes/plants).
The Town should lose access at Neptune statue (fill in) and define single access for pedestrians and/or equipment at the foot of Washington Ave. near where the stones protect the outfall.
Grooming/any mechanical activity in the upper beach near dunes ASAP should cease.
Recommendations to implement fall 2016, prior to winter
The way we are currently doing access walkways is all wrong. The Board recommends that instead the town should angle access walkways away from the north winds, then fence, add sand to fill in, and plant with ABG.
Install multiple rows of sand fencing at the south end (east-west) and north end to mitigate sand blowing during the winter in layout to be discussed with Board.
Public Works Superintendent needs to develop a winter sand maintenance plan, with Board review, to keep sand out of street, clear sidewalks, and install winter fencing.
Recommendations for Jan.-Mar. 2017
Plant ABG where thick grass growth is needed to create lower /wider dunes in the broad parts of the beach where people don’t sit (photos available)
According to the plan (#13), stay on top of keeping boardwalk, street/curbs, and all sidewalks clear of sand for pedestrian safety, e.g., Bay Ave. sidewalk in front of 1 Madison Ave. Deposit sand back on the north end of the beach.
The Board notes that this is not the responsibility of property owners.
To catch sand and build up beach in low area between Monroe and Madison Aves. (which is prone to over wash, e.g., storm on 9/3), plant a 4’ strip of Spartina patens seaward about 35’ dune.
This grass will tolerate salt water which ABG will not.
This will give ABG space and time to extend seaward and build lower, wider dune.
Recommendations for Spring and Summer 2017
Fertilize ABG with 10-10-10. Need to check how often.
For any newly forming dunes at the north end on boardwalk side, leave at least 5’ buffer between toe of dune and the boardwalk.
Refine/replant street side of dunes (in 5’ minimum path next to boardwalk). Town planner, Board to develop a vegetation plan for the length of the boardwalk.
Example plant considerations:
Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’ Switchgrass or beach gr
ass is good on the street/back side of the dune (doesn’t like salt and wind as much as ABG)
Remove trumpet vine to simplify maintenance, plant other suitable plants.
-Town and board – Develop good practice guidance about using mechanical equipment on the beach for equipment operators and train, e.g., avoid emerging vegetation on beach
-Plan and budget for ongoing maintenance – routine, preventative and proactive before storms, e.g.,
-Keep boardwalk, streets/curbs, and sidewalks clear of sand (not the responsibility of property owners)
-Annual planting of ABG as needed
-After the tourist season, let beach naturalize over the winter (don’t remove seaweed)
-Budget for regular sand nourishment (from USACE spoil area)
-Town to develop new signage to protect dunes from foot traffic and mechanical equipment
-Review the Cape Charles Wetlands and Dune ordinances for desired scope going forward
-Should the scope of the charter for the Cape Charles Wetlands and Dune Board be updated?
-Town should develop a beach/sand/dune management plan
-Include recommendations for ongoing beach nourishment
-Review gathered references and plans from other areas (provided by Board)
-Board is willing to develop a suggested outline
-Ask USACE for their dune survey data, also share with VIMS
-Ask VIMS for a cost estimate to routinely monitor (and recommend frequently) the beach and dunes using their established GPS stations
-Plan for/budget to construct dune-appropriate (open pile) walkways across the dunes