Springer's Point: Fixing a Legend

Topics: Habitat Restoration, Living Shorelines, Northeast Coast


Pictured at Springer’s Point, from left: Darren Burrus of Cape Dredging; Steve Trowell of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management; Gene Ballance, an Ocracoke watermen; Lee Leidy of the N.C. Coastal Land Trus, and Kelly Spivey of the division.

Steve Trowell and Kelly Spivey, permit officers with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, recently met with us to discuss our restoration project at Springer’s Point on Ocracoke Island. It was nearly 70 degrees and sunny, hard to believe it was February, until the wind started to kick up and blow across Pamlico Sound.

The federation has been working with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust and local fishermen to devise a plan to protect the eroding shoreline at the Springer’s Point Nature Preserve. The preserve is a local cultural landmark. The reputed lair and hideout of renowned pirate, Blackbeard, Springer’s Point factors into local lore and is a draw for visitors and residents alike.

The land trust bought a conservation easement to preserve the Point.  The preserve includes almost a quarter-mile of shoreline that is eroding because of waves generated across Pamlico Sound and boat wake from a nearby navigation channel. Local people voiced concern about the erosion and the land trust wanted to continue allowing public access and enjoyment of the Point. That prompted a protection plan.

Huge chunks of concrete and rip rap that were salvaged from the old naval base on Ocracoke after World War II are strewn along portions of the shoreline. In places the concrete slabs have shifted or settled, leaving the shoreline exposed. Along other stretches the concrete is still intact and protects the shore from erosion. The existing but compromised structure has created a unique opportunity and challenge for us to design a project that will most closely resemble a living shoreline. Living shorelines are alternatives to bulkheads that protect eroding shorelines while creating important estuarine habitat.

A partnership, between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program, the land trust, the federation, local fishermen, marine contractors and concerned people has formed to design and implement this project. Because of the existing concrete rubble there are some design and logistical hurdles. However, we’ve devised a plan. The marine contractor will break up the huge chunks of concrete and reconfigure them into a structure with more integrity. Where the concrete ends, local fishermen will place bags of oyster shells to create a sill that buffers the shoreline. Later this spring, volunteers will help plant native marsh grasses in areas that have eroded.

This project will require close monitoring to ensure success, but it’s the best design that can be developed given the desire to protect the shoreline in the most environmentally friendly manner possible and protect the community’s cultural heritage.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Community-Based Restoration Program and Restore America’s Estuaries are providing money for this project.

-- Erin Fleckenstein, Coastal Scientist; manager, Northeast Regional Office