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Please Stay off the Dunes
The City of Tybee Island has gained international attention recently for efforts to shore up its coastal environment, making it more resilient to flooding and storm damage. In recent months, the city has expanded its coastline by pumping 1.3 million cubic yards of sand to the beach, built new sand dunes and planted thousands of sea oats to hold those dunes in place - all at a cost of $15 million.
But last week, the city’s efforts took a hit when vandals pulled 550 new dune plantings out of the sand and tossed them around the beach. Witnesses reported seeing a group of youth causing the damage Sunday, March 15 at dunes located near the 18th Street beach crossover, and at an area between the 16th and 17th Street crossovers.
City staff rescued the dehydrated plants the next day and took them to the Department of Public Works where they hope to revive them. Although the beaches are still closed until further notice due to COVID-19 safety measures, Tybee wants to issue an important reminder.
“This incident, while unfortunate, is the perfect opportunity to educate our citizens and visitors about how important it is to stay off the dunes so that we can protect this fragile, but critical ecosystem,” said Tybee Island Mayor, Shirley Sessions.
“The dunes are an important line of defense against storm surge and coastal flooding,” she said. Without a strong dune system, Tybee Island is vulnerable to loss of natural habitats and personal property.”
The City also sees this setback as a chance to engage the community. Once the COVID-19 public health crisis has passed, the city will be seeking volunteers to help with nurturing and replanting.
A City ordinance makes it illegal to disturb the dunes by walking on them or picking the vegetation. Such actions could result in up to $1,000 in fines or six months in jail along with up to 60 days of community service.