Special to the PRESS
Welcome to the new “Dune Hugger” Column! My name is Rob Nixon and I am the Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter and Member of the Surfrider Foundation National Board of Directors. This Column will explore our coasts and issues related to them as well as explore the Surfrider Foundation’s Mission, the preservation of our oceans, waves and beaches for the enjoyment of all people.
Our first issue is Dunes! We love dunes! They provide a natural barrier against storm surge for the properties and infrastructure on South Padre Island, provide a sand “savings account” for our beaches that help them weather and recover from storms and provide habitat for our local flora and fauna. When a storm surge comes in in the form of a tropical storm event or a norther, dunes may be partially washed out by the surge depositing sand either on the beach itself or in a nearby sandbar to be redeposited later during calmer tides. A duneless beach with only seawalls will see a faster erosion rate than those that do have dunes because, while dunes will also absorb energy by elevating the profile of the beach and differentially refract waves, a seawall will magnify the force of the water and concentrate the energy back on the same spot over and over exacerbating erosion.
Back in 2008, Surfrider Foundation partnered with Barefoot Wine, the City of South Padre Island and the University of Texas at Brownsville in our first annual Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project with a combination dune cleanup and harvesting after Hurricane Dolly. We cleaned the dunes of storm debris and took some plants out to be propagated at the UTB Greenhouse and planted later to begin growing new dunes where there were no longer any. It was great success. The process of building a continuous dune line along the beaches of the City of South Padre Island had begun; though slow in the beginning with only a hand full of events and a few hundred plants planted.
In 2010, The City of South Padre Island decided to ramp up the partnership with Surfrider Foundation and increase the number of events, the amount of dune plants and the area covered. The partnership was simple, SPI would buy the plants and the Surfrider Foundation would help organize and provide the Volunteers. The planting increased from a handful of plants being planted over 3 hours with shovels by a group of volunteers to upwards of 12,000 plants being planted at a time using drills and augers! The program had evolved and become seriously viable.
2013 is where everything really clicked though. Thanks to the dedication of the SPI Coastal Resources Department and the Volunteers that Surfrider Foundation helped organize which came from groups of Residents, Families, Texas Master Naturalists, UTB, UTPA, TSTC, Texas A&M, Laguna Madre Boys and Girls Club, Winter Texans, South Texas Fly Tiers Club and many others, the Texas General Land Office offered to start paying for the entire program through a grant. This included $90,000 to purchase plants and supplies to plant as many as 180,000 plants a year. There was no required match the City had to come up with as long as it stayed a volunteer based event. In 2014, the GLO agreed to fund the program again!
What has this state funding meant for the City of South Padre Island, the Surfrider Foundation and all of the other organizations that have helped make this program such a success? It’s meant that 240,000 Sea Oats and Bitter Panicum planted to date and over 6.5 acres of new and enhanced dunes on South Padre Island! That is impressive, but the real benefit is the buy-in from the volunteers and organizations and their commitment to helping naturally preserve and protect our beach. Every so often I will get an email from someone who has participated in one or more of these Dune Restorations and the question is, “How are my dunes doing?” It has created literally thousands of stewards that have given thousands of hours of their time to invest in their beach, even though they may be from hundreds or even thousands of miles away!
You can be a part of the next Dune Restoration event here on SPI and become a steward of our beach as well! The next Dune Restoration and Planting is Saturday April 11 at Gay Dawn Circle (City Beach Access #20) between 9 a.m. – noon. All supplies will be provided.
Chairman- Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter
Member- Surfrider Foundation National Board of Directors
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