ABOVE THE WATER: SEA OATS
Planting sea oats on the beach to trap windblown sand is not uncommon. What makes Lauderdale-By-The-Sea’s program unique is that we have planted sea oats along the entire 2.4-mile length of our shoreline. It took five years and the efforts of more than 1,000 volunteers, but we now have a continuous, natural, self-sustaining dune system in place.
Our program started in 2013 after Tropical Storm Sandy. We lost so much sand (many properties were left vulnerable), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implemented an emergency sand replenishment project to help restore the beach.
Our first step was to partner with the Youth Environmental Alliance (YEA), a local non-profit organization. The Town Commission appropriated $10,000 to purchase sea oats. The YEA brought in volunteers to do the planting, including many school children from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. It has been a great educational experience for the children and they receive community service credits for their efforts. Several major corporations also provided donations and invited their employees and families to help with the planting, making it a true public-private partnership. We also partner with the Broward Sheriff’s Office to bring in juvenile offenders to help with the plantings to meet their community service requirements. All plantings are done with the required permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Award winning program
So far the Town has planted more than 200,000 sea oats along the beach. We are also removing invasive plants and replacing them with rare native species which have been largely pushed out by the invasive plants. We have started our own beach nursery to grow the native species. In addition, we received special permission from the DEP to take down several old, overgrown dunes and replant them with new sea oats, which wasn’t even permitted five years ago. Broward County recognized our program in 2015 by awarding the Town its prestigious NatureScape Emerald Award for special achievement in environmental protection. The Town in 2017 also received an Environmental Stewardship Award from the Florida League of Cities for its sea oats and staghorn coral projects, two programs that help mitigate beach erosion.
Our sea oats planting program has demonstrated that a small town with limited resources can take substantive actions to protect the environment, enhance the economy and help ensure the long-term sustainability of the beach at minimal cost.