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Replenished Beaches: Making Them Safer? (Cape May, NJ)

Posted by Jody on July 24, 2011

Who knew that adding sand to a beach could make it unsafe?  I certainly didn’t.  I thought beach replenishment was simply about adding sand back to eroded beaches… building the beaches up in order to keep the tourists coming.  What a great idea! Wouldn’t we all like to actually see a sandy beach when we show up, sun hats securely in place, brightly colored plastic pails in hand?

Today, sand replacement has become much more specialized than just pumping in sand from offshore burrow sites.

Cape May Sunset by Sujit Kumar from Wikipedia Commons

Before beach replenishment began in 1990, flood waters used to actually come into the city of Cape May, NJ on a regular basis.   Back then, at high tide, the beach was often nonexistent. The goal of protecting property with beach replenishment projects has been met, but in this article by Richard Deneger from, we learn that  the engineering of beaches has perhaps created added dangers for beach goers:

“Cape May was one of the first municipalities to undergo massive beach replenishment projects, which began in 1990, and the city quickly found the new sand was prone to rapid erosion that created cliffs under the surf, causing waves to break sharply near the shore.”

With the sharp shore breaks, rescue calls for surf-related back and neck injuries have increased. Spinal injuries to beach goers were rare before massive beach replenishment projects were introduced.

Municipalities are being urged by the Army Corps of Engineers to take additional steps to educate the public about the risks of engineered beaches, while the Corps works on solutions to the issues of sharper shore-breaks, now appearing at additional replenished beaches.  Municipalities are also being urged to regrade sand as necessary and to post warning signs.  Cape May is also handing out brochures and the local schools are teaching children about the possibility of dangerous surf conditions.

Read the entire article here:  Upcoming Cape May beach replenishment aims to make beach safer

UPDATE: November 17, 2011, Cape May beach replenishment project to shift sand for safer beaches

Have a safe day whether or not you’re going to the beach, and wherever you are… be sure to heed the warning signs!

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