Few slots left for volunteer for beach-grass planting

If you’ve waited till the last minute to register for this year’s beach-grass planting, your options are quickly disappearing.

Jennifer Luoma of DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship said volunteer spots at planting sites at Cape Henlopen State Park, upper Delaware Bay beaches, Lewes beach, Dewey Beach and Delaware Seashore State Park were full as of March 1; but there were still openings for the Fenwick Island site. The beach-grass planting will be held on Saturday, March 18.

There will be no new beach grass planted on Bethany Beach dunes this year, according to Luoma.

“The State’s dune in Bethany is not being planted this year for a couple of reasons,” she said. “We are hopeful that the beach and dunes will be fully restored in a beach nourishment project next year, and the dunes took a hit in a January nor’easter and the beach has not recovered enough to rebuild the dunes in time to be planted this year.”

Every spring since 1990, volunteers have stabilized Delaware’s sand dunes by planting more than 5 million stems of Cape American beachgrass along ocean and bay beaches.

Sand dunes provide protection against damaging coastal storms by absorbing wave energy. Sand dunes offer protection by acting as major sand storage areas that replenish sand to eroded beaches during storm events. Without sand dunes, storm waves rush inland and flood properties.

Dunes are unstable — subject to the ravages of wind and water. Beachgrass helps build and stabilize dunes. Blades of grass help trap wind-blown sand, which can create new dunes and expand existing dunes.

To promote new dune growth and to help protect inland properties from the ravages of flood waters, officials must limit — and sometimes prohibit — people and vehicles from crossing dunes in all but designated areas, especially as applies to beachgrass, which has thick, brittle stalks that can easily be broken and destroyed by pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

“Please help conserve Delaware’s beaches by telling friends and family about the importance of beachgrass, and reminding them to stay off of the dunes,” said Luoma.

For more information about beach-grass planting, call (302) 739-9921 or email questions to Jennifer Luoma at Jennifer.Luoma@state.de.us. Anyone interested in helping to plant dune grass in Fenwick Island can go to http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/swc/Shoreline/Pages/BeachGrassPlanting.asp... to register.