Four options on the table for seashore management

Four options are on the table as officials at Assateague Island National Seashore are in the process of choosing a new plan for managing island resources.

The plan would ideally be in place for the next several decades and replace the current existing plan that was formed in 1982.

Seashore superintendent Debbie Darden says the main issue with the current plan is that it is outdated and does not account for a number of things happening in nature. This includes a rise in sea level and the fact that island naturally moves westward.

“If it moves westward, if you have a facility that’s stationary…while the island is moving westward, you’ve got to figure out something to do because eventually that facility is going to end up in the ocean.” Explains Darden. 

The future of the seashore will depend on one of four options for a management plan. 

The first option keeps the existing plan in place. Darden says it wouldn’t change much, but it’s a legal formality that it be considered.

The second option involves manipulating the environment, mainly by moving loads of sand on the island in an effort to preserve the current infrastructure. 

“The good thing about that is that things wouldn’t change at all.” She says. “The bad thing about it is that you can’t do that forever because eventually the island is going to move and the sand is going to move. The other problem with that is that it’s quite expensive.”

The third option requires flexibility. As the island moves, some facilities like their visitor contact station would be moved to new spots.

Darden says this alternative would be more stable and is currently the National Park Service’s preferred alternative.

She also notes it’s cheaper than option two. According to the plan, there is a roughly 43-million dollar difference in one-time costs alone.

Bill Justice, president of the Assateague Mobile Sports Fishermen’s Association, says he sees the appeal of the third alternative.

“It’s going to reach out and touch all of the user groups with a little bit of something, you know?” Says Justice. “They’re going to like a little of appeal but at the same time…it’s going to manage the island for years to come, and that’s the important thing that we’re all trying to reach.”

The fourth option would be to let nature take its course and allow visitors like Justice to continue using the island’s facilities and infrastructure until they’re gone.

“What that means overtime is that we’d have fewer and fewer facilities for people and the island would become more and more a place for research and science.” Explains Darden.

The public comment period will be open until May 1st. The comments will be reviewed by the regional director of the National Park Service who will hopefully have a decision by early winter, according to Darden.

To submit comments, click here.

There are two remaining open house sessions for residents who wish to find out more information on the proposed alternatives:

– Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Ocean Pines Library, 11107 Cathell Road, Berlin, MD, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM

– Thursday, March 31, at the Chincoteague Center, 6155 Community Drive, Chincoteague Island, VA from 4:00 to 7:00 PM



Categories: Local News, Maryland