During the last leg of our journey, there has been an overwhelming theme of preparation for the future. How do we plan for diminishing coastlines? What seems to be the resounding answer from our society is that we’ll deal with it when the time comes. When houses are destroyed by hurricanes, they can be rebuilt and as the land of Smith Island is eroding, we build bulkheads. What seems to be absent from the minds of those affected is that there will come a time when these tactics will not work. One day there may not be land on that waterfront property to rebuild the house and the bulkhead keeping the water from eroding the land will need to be a wall. Nature is ever changing and the proof is in the past.
As we looked out across the Ocean City Inlet, we were able to see a drastic change that had occurred over time. The non developed beach of Assateague sits further inland than that of Ocean City, but why? The two were once the same barrier island before a hurricane created the inlet, so they should line up. The answer is the inlet. The very structure intended to preserve the Ocean City inlet, is destroying the Assateague beach. The jetty will hold the inlet in place. It will protect it from being moved south as it would naturally over time. Assateague is then deprived of the sand that would naturally be carried from Ocean City and deposited on the beach south of the inlet. Our need for convenient access from bay to ocean seem to hold precedence over the preservation of a natural barrier island. The preservation of this uninhibited island may seem unimportant, but the underlying issue is not in the destruction of Assateague. It is the build up of Ocean City that will be the issue in years to come. Nature will continue to run its course. No amount of construction will fully protect the city from hurricanes and storm surges. The development has only given the city the ability to stay in place. Unlike Assateague, it will not reshape itself after storms. As sea levels rise, Ocean City will be pummeled by nature and because it is no longer a natural barrier island, it will not be able to comply with nature.
The situation here on the coast of Maryland is surely not the only of its kind. Much of our development is along coasts and waterways. We need to be aware of the future and aware that we need to plan for it now, not when the next big catastrophe occurs.