Planting Beachgrass at Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve

With 24 flats of American Beachgrass (Calamagrostis breviligulata) to plant we formed a circle as our leader Eastern Shore Master Naturalist Chapter Advisor and Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Coastal Region Steward and Regional Supervisor, Shannon Alexander, had us briefly introduce ourselves and described both the best beachgrass planting techniques as well as why we were all there in the first place.

Suzanne Noseworthy enjoying her volunteerism.

Our goal was to help with dune restoration and protect the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle (Habroscelimorpha dorsalis dorsalis) along with its sensitive beach environment. But for the 12 ESMN volunteers + friends and Coastal Region Stewardship staff who had gathered by Custis Pond at Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve many of us had beating the rain at the forefront of our minds.

Nancy Townsend with a flat of beachgrass.

Soon each of grabbed a flat of beachgrass and headed the additional ½ mile to the beach where DCR employees had placed dune fencing the previous week in-order-to disrupt the human tide that was making its own pathway through the dunes.

Many tools were used to get the job done!

SNDNAP is a victim of its own popularity with numerous visitors trampling the dunes in-order-to access the beach while keeping both warm and dry. Today we would be planting American Beachgrass with the goal being to not only discourage foot traffic through the fragile dune environment, but also to prevent further erosion along this sensitive and unusual high dune section of Chesapeake Bay beach frontage.

For 5+ years wave and wind erosion have wreaked havoc, and along with human interference, have taken their toll not only on the breathtaking dune/beach environment, but also on the northeastern beach tiger beetle’s favored intertidal zone environment. With various digging tools we immediately focused on the job ahead– planting beachgrass which naturally adds long-term dune support to the more temporary beach fencing. 

Nothing is speedier and more efficient than a team of ESMN volunteers on a mission, and within an hour of initial digging and planting the beachgrass plugs were in place. Having completed our mission, we briefly admired our work and the March sky that forecast impending rain as we gathered for one last group photo and headed home.

ESMNs planting American Beachgrass (Calamagrostis breviligulata), at the end of the SNDNAP Beach Trail

Shown in the top photo: Bob Toner, Suzanne Noseworthy, Ed Augustine, Maggie Long, Shannon Alexander, Jim Roessler, Rose-Marie Roessler, Mimi Stitt, Nancy Townsend,  Deb Kauffman, Amy Lines, Jim McDaniel.  

All photos by Peter Fisher.