BARRIER ISLANDS As you drive along North Carolina‟s Route Twelve at sunrise on a warm summer day, you will

see and experience something that you will not soon forget. A deserted, winding beach road with the brightest colors of orange creeping above the ocean. There is a faint smell of saltwater lingering in the light ocean breeze, and the distinct sound of waves crashing in the background. No true waterman nor ocean lover could argue there is no better place in the world. The Outer Banks represent much more than sand and waves to me and many others who have experienced just how magical that stretch of islands truly is. I have spent my summers exploring every corner of those islands; I have journeyed in search of the perfect wave with lifetime friends, through pounding hurricanes and calm southeasterners. I get chills thinking about the last time that I slid left down the face of a Buxton wave, tucking hard and gripping my rail tightly, dragging my left hand down the face of the wave slowing as the lip curled over my head. Gliding through a roaring, but peaceful barrel standing tall while time seemingly slows almost to a stop, my eyes set on a euphoric canvas that very few will ever see, the sun setting behind cape Hatteras lighthouse as I look out from the infamous „green room‟. Getting a glimpse of that image right before getting spit out of the barrel like a roaring freight train, cutting hard to the left

while throwing a fist in the air to claim that moment of glory. That island represents a future to me; it represents the place that I want to raise a family, grow old and one day die on. These feelings that I feel for this island can be related to by anyone who loves these iconic pieces of land. With something so delicate that represents so much; we need to take every effort we can to invest in protecting these pieces of land in the most efficient ways possible. We can look at how to protect these places by analyzing how they are affected by man and nature, and how we have treated these islands in the past. Barrier Islands face a variety of challenges that contribute to their demise. The Outer Banks is an island in which Kathleen Pompe describes as “A place created by change” (Altered Environments). Man, nature and sea-level contribute to basically all negative changes imposed upon barrier islands. In looking at the different effects on barrier islands you see that there are many things that we have no control over. However, in looking back at the history of the way that man has treated these islands, it is the things that we do have control over that are one of the biggest contributing factors to the demise of these islands. Analyzing how we have treated two very similar islands we can see how the effects that we have on these islands. The only reason in which we are able to experience the solitude of the Outer Banks is because of the conservative treatment of the island.

The Outer Banks is a string of barrier Islands that spans over 200 miles located in the northeast of North Carolina. It is one of the most cherished beached in North Carolina, not only because of its aesthetic beauty, but also the historic value to the state. North Carolina has showed a heavy attempt to avoid the issues that engineered beach replenishment inevitably leads to (Jack, 2010). In 1985, an in depth study was done by the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission; they studied the effects that these manmade structures have had on beaches in other states. Through this research they concluded that the future negative effects of these structures would be catastrophic. Based on their findings a recommended ban on the building of restoration structures was put into place, except in cases where they are protecting a historic building. This recommended ban remained in place until 2003, when it became a law. A major contribution to the success of these implementations was that they did not excessively develop on the island. Apart from five small communities of towns, the Outer Banks remains shockingly undeveloped. I have spent my whole life traveling every portion of those islands, and have watched very little development occur. There is no mistaking that there the island has seen a lot of geographical change over the years. I have watched a whole line of houses fall out to the sea over the years due to the shoreline receding. However, little has been lost, and little action has been necessary due to the conservative attitude towards the land. We have allowed ourselves to let nature take its course, due to the low amount of development. Something that Long Beach Island has made impossible.

Long Beach Island is an 18 mile barrier island located on the coast of Ocean County, New Jersey. That 18 mile stretch of land holds around 20,000 residents and as many as 100,000 people during peak times (Shored Up 7:30). Long Beach Island was once very rural and undeveloped, until the 1950‟s, when an influx of people began moving to the island which eventually led to basically the entire island being developed. Through talking to developers in the area during those times of heavy development, Dr. Norbert Psuty, a retired professor at Rutgers University working in coastal geomorphology says “they had no concept of how dynamic the place was, it was a plot of land to be subdivided, to be built upon and to be occupied” (Shored Up 23:05). Those developers looked at the plots of land and saw huge dollar signs, and took full advantage. There was no second thought as to what the island or surrounding area was going to do in the future. They simply built upon every piece of the land that they could. Therefore after the development, the island was so densely populate that when a storm came, they had nowhere to go. Water rises on both sides decreasing the amount of shoreline, and any structure in place will eventually be washed away. As this process began, due to the high level of development the only option was to fight the changes that the natural elements are making. Long Beach Island fought this bout by building over 400 groins, which are structures built perpendicular to shoreline to prevent sand motion, holding sand that is pumped there into place. Dr. Orrin Pilkey, a retired Duck Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences, describes this implementation of structures designed to replenish beaches as

“a very slippery slope” one in which, “once you start you cannot stop” (Shored Up 32:39). When you look at the effects of groins, down beach erosion is increased dramatically over time. Therefore you must continue building them and continue pumping sand, in order to do the job in which you have prevented nature from doing. The effects that structures such as these have on the integrity of the island and the life in which they contain are irreversible. When pumping sand into these structures, you are destroying ecosystems and geological makeup, which are crucial to the swimming, surfing and fishing, all of which draw people to the island. These programs that are put into place to protect the structures and beaches end up creating a domino effect that will eventually destroy everything that we are putting them in place to protect. When we start a fight with the very element that is contributing to the makeup and health of these islands such as they have done in Long Beach Island, we are beginning a feud which will never end. When looking at the elements which make up barrier islands it is not hard to imagine how important they are to the islands. The same elements that contribute in the makeup of these islands are also equally involved in protecting them. Barrier Islands are formed and altered by the waves, tide, wind, underlying geology, vegetation, and sea level. The constant shifting and distribution of these things is a coping mechanism that barrier islands use to protect against nature. These changes can be in the form of something as big as an inlet being made in order to allow more or less water passage, or as small as grains of sand being blown onto a dune and then again into a marsh, slowly increasing the width of the land. The changes that these islands are forced to make can be looked at as potential hazards and threats to investments already in place, however in most cases that could not be further from the truth. Every sequence of events in the interaction between land and nature has a purpose in contributing to the wellbeing or demise of the island. This is why we must not look at what the island is doing in the instance of change,

but what that change is going to represent in the long run. It is summed up best by Dr. Stan Riggs, a coastal and marine geology research professor at ECU in his statement; “We cannot engineer the island into what we want, it will always change, and you cannot stop change”. There will always be uncontrollable factors when we are relying on something as ever changing as nature. There is no telling what nature will do and how the land will respond. We have no way of protecting these investments that we have in place against the impacts of nature without attempting to change the way that nature interacts with the land. When you look at how important barrier islands are to our coastline, it becomes very apparent how heavily the destruction of them will impact us. Barrier islands make up over 50% of the East Coast‟s shoreline and over 90% of North Carolinas coastline alone. These pieces of land are in great danger and are very susceptible to the damage that not only nature has but also the effects that man is inducing upon them. Evidence suggests that the only enemy capable of doing fundamental damage to barrier islands is man. Through heavy development and protection of those investments we are a major contributing factor to the demise of barrier islands. As a whole we need to change our approach in the way that we handle the effects that nature and man have on these islands. Looking to what the future is going to hold for these pieces of land, not what they are offering us at the current moment is the only way to safely make decisions as to what purpose the land is going to hold for us. Taking risks against something as unpredictable as nature will more times than not lead to catastrophe. When looking deeper than the aesthetic aspects of barrier islands, it is very apparent of how powerful nature really is. Looking at the makeup of barrier islands, every minor geographic detail is from a direct contribution of nature. The average person overlooks all of these qualities, but it is very rare to find a local inhabitant of a barrier island that does not utilize everything that

these amazing places have to offer. I can find no place in the world that offers the wholesome feeling that I experience when I am on a barrier island. Knowing that I am surrounded by the Ocean and all of the elements that it has to offer is inspiring, and gives a sense of endless possibilities. When looking at the possible future of these islands, not only are the actual islands in jeopardy, but the personal connection that we all feel about them as well. This is why taking careful action against the demise of these islands is so important. Protecting the passion and love that we have for these islands, not the financial developments in which we have made on these islands is essential in the future of these beautiful creations. When we begin to look at what we will actually lose when protecting financial investments, instead of the land itself, we will begin to make decisions that affect the health of these islands, not our wealth.

WORKS CITED Kalina, Ben, dir. Shored Up. Prod. Ben Kalina. Mangrove Media, 2014. Film. 8 Mar 2014. <http://shoredupmovie.com/>. Nurin, Tara. "Beach Replenishment: War on the Jersey Shore." Beach Replenishment: War on the Jersey Shore. NJSpotlight, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. Pilkey, Orrin H, Tracy M. Rice, and William J. Neal. How to Read a North Carolina Beach: Bubble Holes, Barking Sands, and Rippled Runnels. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Print. Pilkey, Orrin H. From Currituck to Calabash: Living with North Carolina's Barrier Islands. Research Triangle Park, N.C: North Carolina Science and Technology Research Center, 1980. Print. Pompe, Jeffrey J. and Kathleen Pompe. Altered Environments: The Outer Banks of North Carolina. Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press, 2010. Internet resource. Riggs, Stanley R. The Battle for North Carolina's Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Print.d