The 22nd annual dune grass planting will be held this year on March 26, from 9 a.m. to noon, near Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island and Broadkill Beach, as well as in areas around Cape Henlopen State Park.
Beach grass helps to build and stabilize dunes by trapping windblown sand. As the grass traps the sand, it builds the dunes higher and wider, which makes it more protective of the structures behind it.
According to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), since the program was introduced in 1989, almost 4.9 million stems of beach grass have been planted by dedicated volunteers, and the program has grown over the years.
DNREC’s Jennifer Wheatley said that, last year, in seven areas, they had about 1,100 volunteers come out, and this year, they have more than 600 already registered.
The planting of the grass is done in areas where there is no grass or in areas that have been repaired or where there has been beach nourishment, she explained.
“Beach grass that is damaged or destroyed cannot trap and hold sand, and wind erosion of the dune can occur,” she noted.
This year, they are planting grass in Bethany Beach to replenish what was lost with beach replenishment and, in Fenwick Island, are finishing planting areas that did not get finished last year. They will also be planting near Broadkill Beach and Cape Henlopen State Park.
According to DNREC’s Shoreline and Waterway Management Section, sand dunes protect coastal areas from storm surges, waves and wind. They are important to protect structures and property during storms by providing sand to eroding beaches and by blocking advancing water. Dunes reduce beach erosion, and therefore, protect wildlife habitat, property and lives.
Wheatley said that, for those that have never volunteered before, they sometimes can see (or hear) the fruits of their labor right away.
“If it’s a windy day, the volunteers can sometimes hear the grass trapping the sand already. They sort of don’t really fully understand what they are doing until that happens!”
Wheatley added that it is a good activity for beach enthusiasts of all ages. Instructions and everything needed will be provided to the volunteers.
In Bethany Beach, volunteers will gather at the bandstand area between 8 and 9 a.m. This year, the Delaware Mobile Surf Fisherman cook shack will be on hand in to provide food and drinks for the Bethany Beach volunteers.
To register for the grass planting, or for more information, visit www.dnrec.delaware.gov.