Assateague campgrounds studiedNational Park Service looks for public comments about proposed relocation areas
(April 7, 2017) If there’s one thing that’s certain in the future of a barrier island, it’s that it’s certain to change as time passes.
Evidence of this can be easily seen from the Ocean City inlet, as the portion that used to attach to the resort before a 1933 hurricane split the island in two has receded farther west than its northern half.
There are a number of factors for this, including ongoing beach replenishment programs, the sea wall along the Boardwalk — which extends at least 20 feet below the dunes to stabilize the island — and even the internal erosion and currents within the inlet itself are all contributing to these changes.
But the island doesn’t slide, it rolls inexorably back toward the mainland, and this motion is beginning to affect some of the services millions of people have come to use and expect.
Methodologies have also changed — in that the older facilities and service areas on the island were either built to stay forever, or be destroyed in the attempt. As the latter option has become more frequent, and erosion following strong storms, nor’easters and hurricanes like Sandy have had increasing impact, the National Park Service has changed course.
For example, the Little Levels backcountry camp in the Over Sand Vehicle area south of the main beaches is closed this year because of deteriorating conditions.
The park service has instead begun opting for facilities that can be moved in the event of a dangerous storm, and has also begun the process figuring out how to move the other campgrounds to a more secure location while still enjoying all of the benefits currently offered.
“We want to know what they know,” Park Superintendent Debbie Darden said, of the people who have grown up in and around the area, or have special knowledge of the systems at play, or just anyone who wants to be heard on the proposal to adjust the locations of the campgrounds.
The park service has sketched out an area just west of where the current campgrounds are located, and are developing ideas of where to place the sites within that area.
Currently, the oceanside campgrounds are located just in front of or behind the dune line on the island, and are bordered on the westerly side by Ocean Campground Lane.
The proposal by the park service is to make Ocean Campground Lane the eastern border of the campsites, bordered on the west, for the most part, by Bayberry Drive.
Bayberry Drive is the road all visitors to the national seashore use to enter and exit the park.
“The goal is to keep infrastructure out of the flood plain. Later we’ll be talking roads and parking lots but we’re not there yet,” Darden said.
Where they are in the process is soliciting public comment on the proposed relocation area. If the area is found to be satisfactory after the commenting period has ended, the park service will develop options within that area that could eventually become new campsites.
Comments will be accepted through a dedicated website, parkplanning.nps.gov/oceansidecamping, until April 30.
Later this spring, when the park service is expected to formalize their plans into a general proposal, the park service will schedule an additional comment period on those more detailed plans.