Living shoreline created at Conquest Beach
CENTREVILLE — At the end of the long rocky road leading to more than 750 acres of active and passive recreation space is the newly created living shoreline that will fight future erosion at Conquest Beach.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, officials from state and local government organizations gathered under the pavilion on the largest land holding in the county’s park system to celebrate the shoreline project’s completion with a ribbon cutting.
With more than three miles of shoreline touching the
Corsica River to the south and the Chester River to the north that was eroding, members of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Delmar va RC & D and the county government funded and installed the third climate-smart living shoreline in the country.
The living shoreline project, which cost $271,473 and was completed on August 24, consisted of the installation of 1,170 linear feet of cobblestone and sand, known as a “shingle beach.” A sand dune was created with marsh grass plantings — salt meadow hay, switchgrass and American beach grass — taking up 41,880 square-feet.
Albert McCullough, project designer with Sustainable Science, LLC, asked all in attendance to raise their hand if they were alive. He said those alive are defined by their past experiences, an approach he took into designing the shoreline system.
By looking at past historical data, such as coastal charts from the 1840s or aerial photographs from the 1930s, McCullough said he was able to “get a feel where the shoreline has been. Every shoreline is as unique as each person out here and to really understand it you have to understand what the past is to understand where it’s going forward.”
Getting an idea of what the shoreline was like, McCullough and his team were able to add new natural erosion prevention techniques. “To paraphrase a line from SNL: we need more cobbles. I got the fever. We need more cobbles.”
In the past, he said, hard stabilization methods were the practice, such as solid rock along the shoreline. That idea evolved and incorporated sand into the practice. Cobblestones, he said, were the missing piece. He said the natural technique of cobblestones to prevent erosion can be seen in the river systems.
“These are natural systems,” McCullough said. “They’re actually larger pieces that can really resist the wave climate but also gives a diversity of substrate which would also translate into diversity of species. The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, to the hip bone. So it all comes together.”
Bruce Stein, associate vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, commended the project for its innovativeness and approach to tackle the increasing sea levels.
“One of the real challenges that we had was to ask how could we both use nature to protect shorelines both for people and wildlife but do it In a way that can actually keep up with the changing water levels,” he said. “And that’s really at the heart of the shingle design, an approach that was introduced here.”
For Mark Belton, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and former Queen Anne’s County commissioner and administrator, Conquest Beach is at the forefront of the state’s preservation efforts. Belton said the project is one of a small handful throughout the nation that incorporates sea level rise predictions proactively into its design.
“Here at Conquest Preserve, we’re putting in place an adaptation strategy to make our state more resilient and prepared for the likelihood of climate-related weather change and events,” Belton said.
Del. Steve Arentz read a message to the audience from Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, deputy chief of staff for the governor’s office, presented a citation signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, officials walked the beach and planted the remaining grasses with gold shovels in hand.
“In parks if you can get that bang for the buck where you serve the recreational needs of the public and also do resources conservation, that’s a real plus,” said Chip Price, Parks director.
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State and local officials close out the living shoreline ribbon cutting presentation at Conquest Beach by planting the remaining plants. From left: Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jack Wilson, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton, Commissioner Jim Moran, Del. Steve Arentz, Sen. Steve Hershey, National Wildlife Federation Associate Vice President Bruce Stein, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio from the Governor’s Office and Commissioner Steve Wilson.
From left: Del. Steve Arentz, Sen. Steve Hershey, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton and National Wildlife Federation Associate Vice President Bruce Stein cut a ribbon to commemorate the completion of the Conquest Preserve Living Shoreline Project in Centreville.