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27th annual beach grass planting March 19 covered over five miles

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Almost 1,000 hardy volunteers who turned out in the face of cold and snow for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's 27th Annual Beach Grass Planting March 19. It enabled the planting of more than five miles of Delaware shoreline with Cape American beachgrass.

"We had close to 1,000 volunteers brave the cold northeast winds and came out to help," said event coordinator Jennifer Luoma, DNREC Shoreline & Waterway Management Section.

She noted that volunteers planted in South Bethany, Bethany Beach, Delaware Seashore State Park, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Cape Henlopen, Slaughter Beach and Bowers Beach, and some residents in North Fenwick also planted on state park land in front of their homes.

A great percentage of the 150,000 2-stem Cape American beachgrass plugs available this year were planted Saturday, March 19. The work continued with better weather the following week. "Since Saturday," Luoma said, "a probation violator work crew, conservation technicians with the Shoreline and Waterway Management Section and the AmeriCorps NCCC Falcon 5 team all have been planting the remaining grass in South Bethany."

Their efforts along with volunteers' perseverance March 19 have brought the total grass planted since the inception of the beach grass event in 1990 to almost 5.2 million stems of Cape American beachgrass.

"The beach grass planting is among the state's premier volunteer efforts — through good weather and bad, year after year, these dedicated volunteers turn out to put Delaware in a better place for adaptation and resiliency against sea level rise," said DNREC Secretary David Small.

Beach grass helps by trapping windblown sand, which helps build the dunes higher and wider, which makes them more protective of the structures behind them.

Beach grass has thick, brittle stalks that can be easily broken and killed by pedestrian or vehicular traffic, which is prohibited on the dunes.

Luoma expressed gratitude for sponsorship from PepsiCo and Giant Foods in Ocean View for supplying beverages to volunteers; Delaware Mobile Surf-Fishermen Inc. for providing transportation on the beach along with refreshments; the towns of Dewey Beach and Bowers Beach for providing rest-rooms, and Delaware State Parks for waiving fees for volunteers participating in the event.

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Original Publication Date: April 1, 2016

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