Vandals pull over 500 new plantings from Tybee Island sand dunes

State - Regional

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – The City of Tybee Island is reminding the public to stay off of the island’s sand dunes after vandals pulled over 500 new dune plantings out of the sand last week.

In recent months, Tybee Island has expanded its coastline by pumping 1.3 million cubic yards of sand to the beach, building new sand dunes and planting thousands of sea oats to hold the dunes in place. The City of Tybee Island says the efforts cost $15 million.

Last week, the city says vandals pulled 550 new dune plantings out of the sand and tossed them around the beach. Witnesses report seeing a group of youth causing the damage on Sunday, March 15 near the 18th Street beach crossover and at an area between the 16th and 17th Streets crossovers.

City staff rescued the dehydrated plants on Monday and took them to the Department of Public Works, where they hope to revive them.

“This incident, while unfortunate, is the perfect oppotunity to educate our citizens and visitors about how important it is to stay off the dunes so that we can protect this fragile, but critical ecosystem,” Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said.

Though beaches are currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the City of Tybee Island wants to remind people to never mess with the sand dunes.

“The dunes are an important line of defense against storm surge and coastal flooding,” Sessions said. “Without a strong dune system, Tybee Island is vulnerable to loss of natural habitats and personal property.”

The City says once the COVID-19 health crisis has passed, volunteers will be needed to help nurture and replant the sea oats.

It is illegal to disturb sand dunes by walking on them or picking the vegetation. Doing so can result in up to $1,000 in fines or six months in jail, along with up to 60 days of community service.

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