Ocean City Today

Assateague Island beach stroll brings New Year’s Day fun

By Kara Hallissey | Dec 28, 2017
Several dozen people attended the 37th annual Ilia Fehrer/Judy Johnson New Year’s walk at the State Park on Assateague Island on New Year’s Day 2017. There, attendees heard presentations from park rangers, or just hiked the beach during the event. The event was named for the two women instrumental in protecting the island from development.

(Dec. 29, 2017) Celebrate the new year surrounded by nature during Assateague Coastal Trust’s 38th annual Ilia Fehrer/Judy Johnson New Year’s Day Beach Walk at Assateague State Park on Monday, Jan. 1.

“Anytime you get to go to the beach is a special day,” said Matthew Heim, outreach and communication coordinator of Assateague Coastal Trust. “You get to appreciate nature and enjoy an island people work hard to preserve.”

Former National State Park Service Ranger, Chris Seymour, will be leading participants up the beach to scenic and pristine views, with Ocean City’s strip in the distance, beginning at 1 p.m. The retired park ranger has led the New Year’s Day Beach Walk for almost three decades.

“The walk is about an hour long and under a mile,” Heim said. “There will be cookies and hot cocoa.”

Seymour will focus on the theme of “Assateague Surprises” during the walk while speaking about sea turtle nestings, fowls being born on the island and unexpected moments that happen along the beach throughout the year.

The walk has uncovered skeletons of sea life, clam shells thousands of years old, boat wrecks, dolphin carcasses and even a giant navigation buoy was spotted from Egg Harbor, New Jersey throughout its history.

Anywhere from 150 to 200 people come out every year and the numbers fluctuate depending on the weather. More than 300 walkers have showed up on a nice day, Heim said.

The history of the beach walk is as rich as Assateague Island itself.

In the early 1970s, Judy Johnson formed the Committee to Preserve Assateague Island to draw attention to its beauty.

Around the same time, Ilia Fehrer of Snow Hill, visited Assateague on New Year’s Day wanting to reconnect with the wilderness. She was an avid voice in preserving the wetlands and shorelines on Assateague Island. Her family continued to join every year, even coming down from Baltimore. The invite went out to Assateague Coastal Trust, formally the Committee to Preserve Assateague Island, to join and members started participating. It became bigger and bigger every year.

The first beach walk was organized by Fehrer and Johnson on Jan. 1, 1980, the same year former President Jimmy Carter declared “Year of the Coast.”

The New Year’s Day tradition is now named in their honor.

Entry into the park is free for the New Year’s walk, and hot chocolate and cookies will be offered at the end.

Meet ACT staff and Seymour at the Assateague State Park concession stand at 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 1 to join the walk and make sure to dress accordingly.

From Route 50, follow Route 611 south across the Verrazano Bridge, then drive to the end of the road and turn right into the State Park’s parking lot.

Call ACT at 410-629-1538 or visit ACTforBays.org for more information.

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