With all due respect to Robert Frost, good neighbors DID make good fences this weekend. Sand fences, that is. For years, one strategy for building better dunes on barrier islands during an accretion cycle is the addition of sand fences. According to Orrin Pilkey, in How to Read a North Carolina Beach,
the fences reduce wind velocities and cause sand to drop and accumulate in their shadows.
When decaying marsh grass serves this function in the wrack line or are caught in fences on the beach, the sand builds up and the decaying grasses nourish the dune plants which take root, further stabilizing the beach. Barrier islands can only get permission to install sand fences in areas of the beach that are currently accreting sand, which for us is north of Osprey Walk.
The only problem we have had with those sand fences is that years later, when we are in an erosion cycle again, the metal wires that connect the stakes of the fence have deteriorated. Rusty pieces litter the beaches and are rather uncomfortable and dangerous to step on. For years, members of the island’s Environmental Board researched sand fences made of compostable material– could they be made from corn starch, or hemp, or something else designed to deteriorate or totally biodegrade within a few years? After years of searching, we determined that there wasn’t a commercial product available that met our needs. So island Ecologist, Lori, worked with the EPB, and Gray McGraw, and David Smith to create a sand fence-building workshop that island residents and families could stop by and participate in.
It was great fun… we had to drag our kids away from the action because they had such fun building the fences. Kudos to all who set this up for creating a fun family activity as well as a safer, better option for dune stabilization. And thanks to Van Kinnett for the use of the drill press!