Ocean City Today

Management plan for park revealed

Defines way infrastructure and services will operate as island meets challenges
By Brian Gilliland | Aug 31, 2017

(Sept. 1, 2017) While its impacts might not be known until more than a decade has passed, the general management plan that will guide Assateague Island National Seashore in the years ahead has been completed and published.

None of the changes are going to happen overnight, or immediately or without public input. From this general management plan, park staff this fall will begin a year-long process of distilling a strategic plan to direct more near-term projects and possibilities. After that, staff would begin implementing its requirements.

As the strategic plan’s mileposts approach, Bill Hulslander, chief of resources management for the park, said there would be ample opportunity for the public to comment during the decision-making process.

But first, those decisions need some sort of basis, which is what the newly released document provides. In the early stages of the general plan’s development a couple of years ago, options were presented for public review, with park staff endorsing option three, which remains the favored path today.

The first option in the planning process is usually to do nothing, and so it was with this document. Park officials did explain that the continued, but entirely natural, westward migration of the barrier island would soon force changes to infrastructure and services regardless of park staff’s ability to deal with the issues.

Next, beach replenishment similar to what is done in Ocean City was considered, where sand is collected from one area and dispersed on another.

After that, the park considered writing off facilities and amenities lost to erosion and other forces, and replacing them elsewhere on the island with better and more appropriate improvements. This is the option staff endorsed, and would result in more portable facilities, able to be moved off-island in the event of hurricane or other emergency situation.

Finally, the park could also focus solely on keeping what services it already provides current for as long as possible.

“We’re going to operate like we always have,” Hulslander said. “The island is dynamic, and our infrastructure is evolving.”

One example of this is already underway, as some of the oceanside campgrounds are slated to be moved from where they are now.

Hulslander said the contractor employed to move the campsites is preparing an environmental assessment, which will then be presented to the public to review and comment. From there, three or four options will be derived and one will be selected — much like this process.

“It’s all contingent on funding, and we don’t have funds yet,” he said.

While these alternatives could appear seem drastic, they are relatively mild when compared to the plan for the Virginia side of the island, where operations are underway to move the public beach 1.5 miles to the north to reduce maintenance costs as well as situate the public access part of the island on a more protected area.


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