We call Bogue Banks an island but “sandbar” is probably a more accurate term. Bogue Banks is no more than a large collection of sand just slightly off the coast of North Carolina. Sandbars are migratory ground; they move as wind and waves affect them.
While that motion may be fine on an undeveloped island like Shackleford Banks in the Cape Lookout National Seashore, it is a very real concern where the beach is all that separates homes and vacation cottages and condos from the Atlantic Ocean. Thus those of us who care about Bogue Banks, including the National Park Service (Fort Macon), the various towns (Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, and Emerald Isle come to mind), and many homeowners (including the Flying Catnap by the Sea) also care about dune maintenance, renourishment, and building.
The National Park Service (NPS) began using discarded Christmas trees to improve the nearby dunes in 1964. At first, it was an experiment. Then it was a regular process at Fort Macon. Now it’s common all along the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast (and lots of other places around the world where folks care about the dunes). This year, the NPS will be collecting Christmas trees (with all decorations removed) through January 22nd in both Fort Macon State Park parking lots (the far East end of our island at 2303 East Fort Macon Road).
The benefits go far beyond a good way to get rid of a tree and a more effective sand fence. Birds and small animals shelter in the trees and bring with them seeds and other organic material that they leave behind. The tree decomposes and fertilizes the seeds. Vegetation appears and flourishes. The new or reclaimed dune becomes robust and resistant to hurricane damage. The strengthened dune protects the island and the buildings that are on it.
And it’s an all-natural process with no artificial chemicals whatsoever!
So what’s the catch? Well, there are two small catches, really: it takes a LOT of trees, as in thousands; and it takes a lot of work, as in getting the trees from collection points to the beach and from the beach to the perfect spot along a baby dune.
So do YOUR part! Drop your tree off with the NPS or at the Pine Knoll Shores collection point. Volunteer to help get the trees into position (252-726-3775 for Fort Macon, 252-247-4353 for Pine Knoll Shores, 252-354-3424 for Emerald Isle).