Relocating Visitor Facilities Threatened by Erosion, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia
Assateague Island National Seashore is responsible for maintaining and managing access to a recreational beach that is impacted by storms multiple times each year. Maintaining the recreational beach in its present location is unsustainable in the face of continued storms, shoreline erosion, and sea level rise. The park must develop cost-effective, sustainable ways to provide a recreational beach and beach access that are acceptable to local interests and visitors.
The park manages a recreational beach within the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. This beach is the primary economic driver for the local community of Chincoteague, Virginia, which caters to visitors with hotels, restaurants, and other amenities. The park committed to maintaining and managing the recreational beach through a 1967 agreement with the USFWS, which had an existing agreement with the citizen group Assateague Bridge and Beach Authority to have a recreational beach in exchange for construction of a bridge connecting the town with the refuge.
The park has implemented several solutions to improve sustainability. Infrastructure in this area has been replaced with portable substitutes that can be relocated off-island in advance of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-forecasted storms and in response to erosion. The park now constructs roads and parking lots in this area from island-compatible materials, a clay base with clam shell for a road surface, which are dug up and reused when the lot is moved, and which also avoid introduction of foreign debris such as asphalt on post-storm beaches. The surface requires twice-weekly maintenance and additional clam shells need to be added every year or two. Parking lot repairs have been supported by Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) funding and existing park staff.
Outcomes and Conclusions
In consideration of cost constraints and town interests, relocating the recreational beach is not only the most reasonable solution but also may be considered essential at this point. To determine suitable parking lot locations and configurations, the park has used shoreline monitoring data to forecast future shoreline erosion rates, and has worked with the USFWS to identify appropriate areas for relocation. The park and USFWS will also use forthcoming results of a US Geological Survey model indicating the impacts of sea level rise and storm intensity along the island.
This case study is part of the 2015 National Park Service report, Coastal Adaptation Strategies: Case Studies. These case studies initially were developed by park managers as part of a NPS-led coastal adaptation training in May 2012. The case studies follow the format created for EcoAdapt’s Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) database, including a list of adaptation strategies. All case studies were updated and modified in September 2013 and March 2015 in response to a growing number of requests from coastal parks and other coastal management agencies looking for examples of climate change adaptation strategies for natural and cultural resources and assets along their ocean, lacustrine, and riverine coasts.
Ennis, I. (2015). Relocating Visitor Facilities Threatened by Erosion, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia [Case study on a project of Assateague Island National Seashore]. Excerpted from Schupp, C.A., R.L. Beavers, and M.A. Caffrey [eds.]. 2015. Coastal Adaptation Strategies: Case Studies. NPS 999/129700. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/relocating-visitor-facilities-threatened-eros...(Last updated November 2015)