BY EMILY CLAGETT and GAMIE OTT
Every summer, thousands of tourists flock to Ocean City to lay out on its wide, sandy beaches and soak up some sun, failing to realize those same beaches are slowly shrinking. Due to the ocean’s current, sand is constantly being pulled away from the shoreline and swept down south.
To try and counteract this natural phenomenon, every four years, the Town of Ocean City replenishes its beaches with hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sand that has been brought in from other locations. The project, started in 1988, is called the Ocean City Beach Replenishment Project. The Beach Replenishment Project is necessary for maintaining wide, tourist-friendly beaches, but also for protecting the structures close to the water from storm damage. Brent Zaprowski, a geology professor at Salisbury University believes that this method has minimal impact on the environment.
“You’re just putting sand back and it’s a very natural process, it’s not intrusive,” says Zaprowski. Ocean City’s replenishment system may not have a large environmental impact, but it is a futile attempt to prevent the islands from migrating, a very natural process. “It’s kind of this never ending cycle of throwing money at a problem that’s never going to be solvable,” says Zaprowski. Another local beach, Assateague National Seashore, is facing similar problems yet has chosen a more cost-efficient method. The National Seashore has built mobile structures which allow the island to erode and restructure itself naturally without causing damages to the infrastructure. Zaprowski says it would be impractical for Ocean City to adopt Assateague’s technique in the future. “You have a lot of very permanent structures there,” explains Zaprowski, “you can’t just move them easily.”