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ASBPA Names Best Restored Beaches for 2017

From a childhood spent building sand castles to adolescent walks on the beach to adults enjoying family time, America’s beaches are synonymous with celebrating summer.

With the beginning of the summer beach season a few days away, the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) today released its much-anticipated annual list of the nation’s best restored beaches. This year’s list provides representation from the north Atlantic, mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The 2017 winners are:

  • Dauphin Island, AL
  • Phipps Ocean Park, Palm Beach, FL
  • Popponesset Spit, MA
  • Prime Hook Beach, DE
  • Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach, VA

While Americans joyfully celebrate beaches by visiting them, few understand what it takes to keep that beach special. ASBPA created the Best Restored Beach award as a way of highlighting the value of restored beaches. ASBPA and its partners have also developed a Beach Nourishment Database, to provide our members and the public with detailed information on U.S. beach nourishment projects at the national, state, and project level. The database is available here.

Why should you want to visit a restored beach? Here’s the top reason, according to ASBPA President Tony Pratt – fun. Many of America’s most heavily used beaches are restored beaches – wide and sandy, providing abundant recreational opportunities for beachgoers.

“The summer of 2017 is upon us and people across the nation are dreaming of sun, surf and sand. Their time at the beach is very often the happiest times of their lives,” said ASBPA President Tony Pratt. “We here at ASBPA take that love of the coast very seriously. We honor the efforts that go into managing and, when necessary, rebuilding the beaches that are in the hearts of so many vacationers.

“This year’s Best Restored Beach winners represent a wide variety of beach types that offer unique and varied attributes. I congratulate the winners for their hard work and for the beautiful beaches they have protected and enhanced,” said Pratt. “For more than 50 years, beach restoration has been the preferred method of shore protection in coastal communities. Beach restoration is the process of placing beach-quality sand on dwindling beaches to reverse or offset the effects of erosion.”

The value of healthy coasts:

  • Storm protection – A wide sandy beach helps separate storm waves and other coastal hazards from upland structures and infrastructure.
  • Habitat restoration – Numerous species rely on wide, healthy beaches as a place to live, feed, rest and nest.
  • Recreation – America’s beaches are its largest national park with 2.2 billion visits in 2010 – more than twice the numbers of visitors to all our federal and state parks combined.
  • Spend millions to save billions – Investing in infrastructure now saves money in re-building later.

During times of economic hardship, the beach can be an even more desirable vacation destination than other domestic and foreign alternatives, offering families and visitors an accessible and affordable getaway. It is also a jobs bonanza and tax generator– healthy coasts drive local economies:

  • Beaches contribute an estimated $225 billion annually to America’s economy.
  • Each year, governments take in $570 in taxes from beach tourists for every dollar it spends on beach restoration.
  • Well over half of the nation’s gross domestic product ($7.9 trillion) is generated in 673 counties along the oceans, Gulf and Great Lakes, according to NOAA’s National Ocean Economics Program.

To enter the Best Restored Beach competition, coastal communities nominated their projects for consideration, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on three criteria:

  • The economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community;
  • The short- and long-term success of the restoration project; and
  • The challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.

According to Lee Weishar, Ph.D., chair of the Best Restored Beach Committee responsible for making the selections: “I look for commitment and dedication to the project. I want the applicant to make me love his or her beach.”

This year’s winners spotlight a diverse selection of beaches and challenges, ranging from protecting coastal marshes in a wildlife refuge to protecting upland properties in one of America’s most exclusive locales. What they all have in common, however, is working creatively to address complex coastal issues in way that is sustainable to the ravages of nature, compatible with the surrounding environment and achievable in the face of both political and natural obstacles.

Here’s a brief overview of this year’s Best Restored Beaches:

Dauphin Island Restoration Project (Alabama)

The Dauphin Island East End Beach and Barrier Island Restoration Project was a non-federal project which combined recreation, habitat protection and storm damage prevention into one project. The project restored almost one mile of highly eroding beach by placing 320,000 cubic yards of beach-quality sand on the eroding barrier beach. The restored beach is on Alabama’s only barrier island and provides protection to the Audubon Bird sanctuary that is an important migratory rest stop that is heavily used by bird watchers.

Additionally, the beach restoration project restored a historically eroding beach that had lost over 700 feet of shoreline, so that portions of the restored beach are almost 400 feet in width. The newly restored beach is now a recreational destination for both residents and tourists. This project combines some of the most important features that we look for in a restored beach project.

Phipps Ocean Park Beach Restoration Project (Florida)

Phipps Ocean Park is located in the Town of Palm Beach, Florida. The 2016 beach and dune restoration project placed over a million cubic yards of sand over more than 2 miles of shoreline on the beach and dune.

This project is a prime example of the effective management of eroded beaches through the strategic implementation of modern nourishment practice and is a key element of a Town-wide nourishment program. The project has resulted in the conversion of a highly eroded and vulnerable shoreline into a healthy beach and dune system that provides storm protection, recreational use and nesting habitat for sea turtle and bird species. The project provides storm protection and resilience for upland properties.

Not only does the project provide direct benefits in the project area but it also re-establishes the natural supply of sand for beaches to the south by acting as a feeder beach. In this way the project increases the overall health of the coastal system improving the stability of critically eroded beaches on Palm Beach Island.

Popponesset Spit Barrier Beach Nourishment Project (Massachusetts)

For almost two decades Save Popponesset Bay has worked with Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Town of Mashpee to protect one of the town’s most valuable natural resources – the 4,000-foot-long barrier beach known as Popponesset Spit. The “Spit” provides vital shelter to the flourishing ecology of Popponesset Bay, affords critical storm damage protection to hundreds of properties around the Bay, protects numerous navigation channels, and is home to many endangered shorebird species.

Historically, the Spit eroded at roughly 5 ft/yr, which led to significant narrowing of the beach, numerous dune breaches, and storm overwash. Channel dredging, the primary source of beach nourishment, had not yielded a sufficient volume to keep up with erosion and sea level rise. Consequently, the Spit was disappearing, and the community knew a longer term solution was necessary.

In 2013 volunteers launched the first campaign to fund a substantial nourishment project. Thanks to strong community support, more than 60,000 cubic yards of sand was placed on the dunes and beach to restore the height and dune elevation for about two-thirds of the spit. The ongoing project has significantly improved the resilience of the Spit and the Bay and is helping to restore natural habitat for endangered water birds, mitigate erosion, improve storm damage prevention for the Bay and surrounding area, and enhance navigational safety and reliability. The partnership of all stakeholders stays strong by working on a common goal: Save the Spit and the Bay.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge Barrier Beach Restoration Project (Delaware)

The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge beach restoration project was a federal project funded by the Hurricane Sandy Relief Act, restoring two miles of a beach/berm/dune/back barrier complex with 1.4 million cubic yards of sand.

This is one of the few restoration projects that is totally dedicated to protecting and increasing the resiliency of wetland resources. The wetlands and marshes within the Delaware River Estuary have long been nurseries for juvenile fish. The marshes supply the abundant game fish to the sport and commercial fishing industries, which are economic engines providing vital income to local economies within the estuary.

This restoration project restored two miles of barrier beach that protects landward marshes from wave attack. The restoration placed approximately 1.4 million cubic yards of sand on the barrier beach to construct a protective beach and dune system. An unintended result of this restoration was the establishment of a Least Tern nesting colony and the first ever Piping Plover nest.

This is a great example of restoring a barrier beach to enhance/protect wetland resources that benefit the entire regional economy. This project increases barrier beach and wetland resiliency while helping maintain a vital fishing industry which is an economic driver within the Delaware River Estuary.

Sandbridge Beach Restoration Project (Virginia)

This renourishment project is located in the city of Virginia Beach and has been re-nourished four times since 1998. An estimated 7.8 million cubic yards of sand have been placed on five miles of beach with a total known cost of $43.8 million.

This project shows how a town, private landowners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) can come together to protect houses; and that a community can find creative ways to fund their share of the project by creating a local tax district. The community could have armored the shoreline with higher seawalls and rip-rap, but choose instead to undertake a beach nourishment project to restore their beach.

The restored beach has increased the coastal resiliency of this shore while returning much needed sand to the littoral system. Prior to the restoration, there was no high-tide beach along this section of shoreline. The residents and the city proactively worked with the USACE to develop a federal project that not only restored the beach and dune ecosystem but dramatically reduced property damage and loss from severe storms.

A complete list of award-winning beaches, and more information about beach restoration and ASBPA, is available online here.

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