Home Latest Stories Ocean City’s North End Beaches May Get a Facelift This Fall

Ocean City’s North End Beaches May Get a Facelift This Fall

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Gabriella DiMarco and her dog Toby are dwarfed by the cliff-like walls of sand from some damaged dunes at Fifth Street.

By Donald Wittkowski

Large chunks of the dunes along some of Ocean City’s north end beaches have been sliced away, as though someone took a gigantic cleaver and cut them in half.

What’s left are cliff-like walls of sand that tower 7 or 8 feet above the beach in spots between Third and Fifth streets.

Although Ocean City isn’t scheduled for its next round of beach replenishment until 2018, there is a possibility fresh sand could be added to the badly eroded north end beaches this year to get them in tip-top shape.

Mayor Jay Gillian announced in his “State of the City” address Thursday night that the city has been in “positive talks” with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the possibility of starting an additional beach restoration project in the north end as early as this fall.

Ocean City is now on a regular three-year cycle for beach replenishment projects funded by the Army Corps of Engineers. The mayor said the next phase of pumping is scheduled for 2018. That timetable would be accelerated if the city is successful in its talks to get the north end beaches replenished this fall.

Rocks are exposed on the eroded beach at Fifth Street.
Rocks are exposed on the eroded beach at Fifth Street.

First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger, who represents the north end of town and has advocated for more beach restoration work, said he was thrilled to hear Gillian’s remarks.

DeVlieger noted that healthy beaches are essential for Ocean City’s tourism industry and for maintaining the town’s reputation as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”

“Our beaches are a critical part of what makes us great. We have to do everything we can to keep them in the shape that people have come to expect,” he said.

Coastal Living Magazine named Ocean City in 2016 as the winner of its “Best Beach in America” award, the result of a nationwide online poll. City officials said the award underscored the importance of having a pristine beachfront.

However, some of the north end beaches got hammered by the powerful coastal storm Jonas in January 2016. In addition to carving sharp drop-offs in the dunes between Third and Fifth streets, the storm also washed away the top layer of powdery sand that provides a comfortable cushion for beachgoers to lie on.

Gabriella DiMarco, an Ocean City resident, was taking her dog, Toby, for a walk Sunday on the north end beaches. At one point, DiMarco stood at the base of some of the dunes on Fifth Street that had been dramatically sheared away.

“I noticed that they have become badly eroded,” she said.

She pointed out that her dog seems to have an easier time running on the dunes now because they are not nearly as big as before.

Scott Smyth, who grew up in Ocean City and now lives in Strathmere, recalls when the beaches were very sparse in the 1970s and 1980s.
Scott Smyth, who grew up in Ocean City and now lives in Strathmere, recalls when the beaches were very sparse in the 1970s and 1980s.

Scott Smyth, a Strathmere resident who grew up in Ocean City, noted that the beaches are ravaged by Mother Nature virtually every year. He said he remembers many beach replenishment projects that have been wiped away by the ocean.

Overall, Smyth characterized most of the north end beaches as being in fairly good shape now, especially when compared to what they were like in the 1970s and 1980s. During his youth in the 1970s, the beach was so sparse that the surf would wash up all the way under the Boardwalk, he said.

“We used to go swimming right off the Boardwalk,” the 53-year-old Smyth recalled. “At high tide, the water would come in under the Boardwalk and we jumped right in.”

The north end beaches were last replenished in 2015, when the Army Corps of Engineers pumped 1 million cubic yards of new sand between the northernmost jetty at Seaspray Road and 12th Street.

Ocean City’s share of the $12.3 million north end project was about $1.1 million, with the state and federal governments picking up the rest of the tab.

In 2016, the city’s south end received 473,000 cubic yards of new sand to restore the storm-damaged beaches between 37th and 59th streets. The work was part of a federally funded $15.8 million project that also replenished beaches in Sea Isle City and Strathmere.

Part of the dunes have been sheared away right up to the fence line in front of the Gardens Plaza condominium near Third Street.
Part of the dunes have been sheared away right up to the fence line in front of the Gardens Plaza condominium near Third Street.