Erosion An Ongoing Threat To Sand Beach

Summer storms take a toll on Harrison County's 26 miles of manmade beach. Beach maintenance is an ongoing challenge made tougher by storm driven wind and waves.

While beach erosion can't be stopped, it can be slowed down some.

Heavy equipment moves slowly along the beach in Gulfport.  It smoothes out the sand that Mother Nature rearranged. The strength of summer storms often leaves gaps and gullies along the beach front.

"And then when we get these rain events it kind of ponds in the middle of the beach. And once it gets to a certain point it just cuts through the shore line and creates a pretty big eroded area," said beach director, Bobby Weaver.

Fences help halt erosion. The mesh barriers collect mounds of blowing sand. The resulting manmade dunes keep the sand from blowing off the beach and onto the highway.

"I'm building a sand castle," said a young girl playing in the sand with her cousins.

Mary Finch watched her grand children play near a section of washed out beach. Her family welcomes a break from the summer storms. She's certain the beach could also benefit from a few days of sunshine.

"Doesn't look exactly too impressive because of the rains. The weather has been raining. And we really haven't had the chance to have the fun we used to before," Finch said.

Various shore line plants provide some of the best protection against the eroding impact of wind and water. Over the years, the sand beach department has used planting projects at several locations along the beach.

"It's a lot more aesthetically pleasing to look at than a fence is. It works excellent. It just gives you a different appearance as you drive down the highway. Instead of just having a white beach sand fence everywhere, the dune vegetation gives an alternate look," Weaver said.

Dune vegetation also keeps the beach looking good, helping the sand stay in place despite the ongoing threat of erosion.

Bobby Weaver says the beach boardwalk is also beneficial in battling beach erosion. The sand is trapped beneath and beside the walkway, preventing it from blowing onto Highway 90.