If you have a willing attitude, gloves and a posthole digger, Tybee Island wants you on Saturday.
The island’s Beach Task Force needs volunteers to help install sand fences and spread marsh wrack to help its sand dunes grow bigger and better.
It’s a city-funded project that’s been in the works for more than a year, but there is increased urgency with the damage done by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Volunteers will help dig 144 holes for fence posts, stretch 750 feet of fencing between those posts and then place marsh wrack against the fencing to promote natural plant growth.
The sand dune site targeted for this first effort is located near the south end of the North Beach parking lot at Gulick Avenue.
“We know from Matthew and Irma how incredibly important sand dunes are,” said Beach Task Force Chairman Cathy Sakas, who noted how dunes protect beachfront property from storm surge. “They do the job. That has never been more apparent than with recent hurricanes punching through the breeches.”
Georgia beach communities for years have used fencing to boost the growth of dunes. They arrange the fences in a simple pattern prescribed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This project is an attempt to get more sand capture by arranging the fences differently.
The complex fencing pattern they’ll apply has been approved for use on Tybee by the DNR. Two rows of multiple 10-foot lengths of sand fencing will be arranged in diagonal patterns that mirror each other. In between, another row of fencing will form a series of open “V” shapes. In all, the fencing will cover an area about 280 feet long and 40 feet wide. Engineers from Terracon Engineering Services will map out where the posts are to be dug.
“It will catch the sand from all directions,” said Beach Task Force member Sam Adams, who at 70 remembers growing up on a Tybee Island that had no dunes at all.
“I had to jump off the 1938 sea wall to get to the beach,” he said.
Consultants at Environmental Services Inc. have already completed a baseline assessment to document current site conditions. They’ll return to monitor test locations quarterly for two years looking at sand movement, plant growth recorded and the overall project results, all of which will be shared with other island communities.
The call to action for Saturday has already produced more than 25 responses.
“It’s really been heartening. The rate of the calls coming in has been staggering,” Sakas said. One call, she said, came from a self-identified “surfer dude” who said he and his buddies are at the beach all the time and just wanted to help.
Volunteers who can’t make it Saturday should be on the lookout for opportunities at two more sites — Second Street and 14th Street — likely to be targeted by the end of the year.