Photo Information

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marty Korenek (right) takes a break from planting sea oats to talk to Kevin Whaley about the success of the volunteer efforts with the Camp Lejeune Environmental Conservation Branch creating future sand dunes at Onslow Beach July 9. More than 30 volunteers gathered at Riseley Pier to plant 10,000 sea oat plants at various locations south of the pier in order to promote the preservation of Onslow Beach and hurricane protection. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker

Camp Lejeune Environmental Conservation Branch promotes natural dune building

9 Jul 2005 | Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker

In an effort to preserve and maintain Onslow Beach and its wildlife and to protect the coast from hurricanes and tropical storms, the Camp Lejeune Environmental Conservation Branch coordinated a dune building day July 9.

More than 30 volunteers gathered at Riseley Pier to help plant sea oats in order to create future sand dunes.

“Our work here has two main purposes,” said Marty Korenek, a wildlife biologist with the Camp Lejeune Environmental Conservation Branch. “The first is to maintain the beach, so Marines and sailors can continue to use it for training purposes, and the other is to preserve the wildlife inhabiting the beach’s environment.”

There were 10,000 sea oats planted. This grass was chosen because it is a native, dune plant and is the signature plant found along the entire North Carolina coastal dune system, according to Korenek.

The group used an effective process to plant the oats and begin its transformation to dune.
All the volunteers lined up with plants in their hands waiting for the holes to be bored in the sand with a pressured water pipe. The water they used branched off into five hoses and was sourced by a large tank being hauled by a tractor. As the holes were made in the sand, people would drop a plant in and another would place a soda cap full of fertilizer in as well.

“Our goal is to establish a stable line of vegetation, which will recover as much of the sand blowing up and down the beach as possible,” said Korenek.

There are three main factors involved in forming a natural dune properly, according to Korenek.

The first is a supply of dry sand to blow freely up and down the area. An onshore wind to transport the sand is also a needed factor. Finally, a barrier to slow down and allow the sand to drop to form the dune – in this case the barrier is the individual sea oats.

“This project is one of the biggest we do all year,” said Korenek. “We put a lot of effort in organizing this project and being able to get everyone together, but it was worth it because preserving the future of Onslow Beach is in the best interest of everyone involved. It’s very important we do what we can to maintain the environment here at the beach.”

While 10,000 plants may seem like a lot of planting for 30 or 40 people to do in one day in the hot summer sun, the same number of plants were distributed last year as well, according to Korenek.

“It’s definitely a benefit to stabilize the dunes for the long term success,” said Kevin Whaley, a wildlife technician with the Environmental Conservation Branch. “Over the last year with the same amount of plants, they have already began collecting sand and starting new dunes, so we’re definitely making a difference.”

As far as the future of beach conservation and the evolution of the sand dunes, Korenek thinks the work they’re doing will definitely help sustain the North Carolina coastal dunes at Onslow Beach and support the wildlife depending on the dunes to survive, according to Korenek. The dunes will also continue to protect the land during hurricane season, allowing the beach environment to evolve as naturally as possible.

“It’s nice to see how we’ve helped the dunes in the future and watch how they grow,” said Molly Ellwood of Long Island, N.Y., an intern at the Environmental Conservation Branch. “And it’s nice to know we’re helping with hurricane protection.”