Students help restore eroded shoreline

walton beach nature preserve

North Beach, MD - Over the past two years, restoration specialists have worked tirelessly to reverse the effects of 20 years worth of erosion on the Walton Beach Nature Preserve.

A group of Huntingtown High School students were able to take a hands-on role in this restoration project, finishing their roles in the Living Shoreline Live Action Classroom on Tuesday, June 7.

The students put the finishing touches on the project by planting the last of the project’s grasses and collecting data about the progress of the water quality, habitat and biodiversity of the shoreline that they have been able to witness.

“I remember this whole area was just sand in the fall,” said Sydney Nader, a ninth grade student at Huntingtown. “We have come a really long way. We were here when they first started planting the plants, and it’s really cool to see everything come together.”

The shoreline has eroded over 40 feet in the past 20 years. That erosion has begun to compromise North Beach’s 105 acre salt marsh, an important Black Duck habitat, and allow flooding on Route 261, an emergency evacuation route for North Beach.

“This is a vital transportation route, not just for automobile traffic but for emergency vehicles from North Beach that need to access the lower end of Anne Arundel County,” said Mayor of North Beach Mark Frazer. “Without access along this road, their response times will be significantly lowered.”

The Town of North Beach contracted the project out to Environmental Concern, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the public understanding and restoration of wetlands.

The nonprofit applied for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Hurricane Sandy grant on behalf of the town. They were awarded $540,000 to help cover the cost of the living shoreline and the wetland restoration.

“The project that was designed is a 670 foot living shoreline,” said Jessica Lister, vice president of Restoration for Environmental Concern. “It’s restoring 3.6 acres of marsh habitat. The concept is that the marsh is slowing down the energy of the waves. It’s creating another habitat here that’s also helping to restore the roadbed.”

Getting the students involved in the process allowed them to take part in a real action project, instead of just learning about the topic solely in the classroom.

“In the classroom, I don’t think that they make the connections that they need to see that they can personally do these improvements, or monitor a site or determine where there are problems that need to be fixed,” said Huntingtown High School teacher Jill Twetten. “I think it makes it more doable for them and definitely more real. They’re definitely more engaged in an environment like this than in a classroom watching PowerPoint slides.”

The Education Director at Environmental Concern Katelin Frase believes that they are teaching the students the necessary skills to create their own action projects through showing them the processes of planning, design, implementation and monitoring.

“Hopefully, the monitoring will allow them to see a restoration project not as just a project that finishes when you implement it but something that is a change in an ecosystem,” Frase said.

The students will hopefully build a relationship with the site and take pride that they helped restore it.

“Long term, they’re going to drive by this site and watch it slowly progress into a more mature ecosystem and know that they had a part in that,” Twetten said.

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