Steven Mezynieski is the Owner and operator of Southampton Excavation and Site Development in Southampton, New York. Located on the eastern tip of Long Island, the area is highly susceptible to the devastating Nor’easters and Hurricanes that tend to plague the coast year-round. The sand dunes along the coast are the first line of defense against these storms, providing a natural barrier to the damaging winds and waves that are an inevitable part of these coastal storms. Absorbing the impact of the storm surge and high waves, sand dunes prevent and often times delays the flooding of inland areas.
After continually battering by wind and sea, sand dunes begin to erode, causing the structures and homes built behind the sand dunes more vulnerable to flooding and severe damage by future storms. The beach grass that is commonly found lining the sand dunes, acts as a natural barrier against this erosion, however, with increased recreational use of many of the coastal areas, the beach grass can quickly be killed off. The thick brittle stalks of the plant get broken when trampled or traveled on by vehicles. Without this vegetation, the dune becomes exposed to wind erosion that results in breaches in the dune. This creates a weak spot in the dune, making the area behind the dunes more susceptible to flooding during large storm events. Proactively protecting the dunes helps to prevent loss of property and life during coastal storms and helps to protect the sand supply that slows the erosion of the shoreline.
Dune improvement and protection is a joint effort between the coastal governments and the residents that live along and use the shoreline. There are several ways residents can help to protect and preserve the dunes, in addition to taking precautions to prevent damage to both the dunes and vegetation. Participating in the following inexpensive activities, residents can increase the width and height of the dunes, repair damaged dunes, and establish new dunes where none currently exists.
Plant Beach Grass: the most effective way to stabilize the existing dunes is to plant ‘Cape’ American beachgrass. It is easy to plant and it spreads quickly. Beach grass helps to reduce wind velocity near the ground and traps sand around the grass.
Erect Sand Fencing: to protect the beach grass from foot traffic, place sand fencing at the base of the dune and around the walkways to help keep people from walking on the beach grass and breaking the stalks.
Use Public Crossovers: vehicle and pedestrian dune crossovers have been erected to prevent pedestrian and vehicle traffic from damaging the beach grass. Using these crossovers keeps the beach grass healthy, protecting the dunes and maintaining their effectiveness.
Don’t Throw Debris onto the Dunes: throwing yard waste, trees, tires and other debris on the dunes not only kills the beach grass but can become a fire hazard and can be dangerous for pedestrians walking along the beach.
Protecting the sand dunes against erosion is important for keeping both residents and property safe against flooding and wind damage caused by large coastal storms like hurricanes and Nor’easters. Steven Mezynieski, owner, and operator of Southampton Excavation and Site Development works with the city of Southampton to restore the battered dunes along the coast and is looking to expand the Dune Restoration side of the business with the help of his son Cole.