Erosion Control-Part II
During the 1940s, the shore erosion steadily progressed inland at Bogue Point. By 1949 the shoreline at the point stood back almost to the position it had occupied at the completion of the engineer operations in the 1880s. During the 1950s, new erosion problems fueled by a series of violent hurricanes and storms left the stability of Bogue Point and the safety of Fort Macon in question.
In the summer of 1952, heavy erosion took place on the inlet beach northeast of the fort. It undermined two public toilets at that location, one of which actually fell onto the beach.
State and federal officials took immediate action because of the threat to the sand dunes protecting the parking lot. A local company was contracted to strengthen existing jetties at this location and construct a stone breakwater wall to protect the beach during January to March, 1953. Some $25,000 were secured for the work from the State Contingency and Emergency Fund.
On the ocean side, however, erosion was becoming a concern southwest of the fort during 1953 and 1954. One particularly bad summer storm during July 8-12, 1954, was responsible for undermining two massive 30-foot diameter concrete gun mounts installed in World War II for 6-inch guns. These collapsed onto the beach.
Unfortunately, more storms were on the way.
Hurricane Hazel on October 15, 1954, did great damage to the ocean beach and Bogue Point. At the bathhouse area, the storm surge swept through the dunes to within a few hundred feet of the park highway. At Bogue Point storm surge swept over the barrier dunes into the fort parking lot. Hurricanes Connie, Diane and Ione in 1955 were far less severe but added to the overall destruction of the primary dune lines.
During 1957-58, storm tides cut away the ocean beach right up to within eleven feet of the park road south of the fort, leaving an eroded embankment dropping off from the road shoulder. The waves crashing against the embankment at high tide splashed over onto the cars of park visitors passing by. The N.C. Highway Department was able to save the road by building a rubble breakwater at the foot of the embankment at a cost of about $7500.
However, it was clear that more lasting measures were needed both to secure the park road and the fort parking lot. On April 22, 1958, the Governor allotted a total of $50,000 from the State Emergency and Contingency Fund to rework several of the jetties and replenish the beach with dredge fill.
The project for beach fill and jetty repair began in September, 1958. It involved reshaping the jetties on the point and strengthening two of them with 1260 tons of new granite stones. In October, the dredging part of the project began with 100,000 cubic yards of spoil being piped onto the beach at two locations. The total cost of the project was $48,538.38.
The new fill helped the beach but after only a few months erosion was cutting back into it again. Fortunately, the 1959 N.C. General Assembly appropriated $150,000 to continue erosion control work at Fort Macon State Park. Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers was asked to conduct a study of the erosion problem jointly with the state to determine long-term solutions. Hurricane Donna on September 12, 1960, showed the need for more permanent efforts. The hurricane wiped out the whole dune system on the point and caused widespread erosion. As a result, it was planned to use an extensive rock seawall at Bogue Point to stop the antics of the sea by simply walling off the point. In accordance with the Corps of Engineers’ recommen-dations, the seawall would be made to pass around the point but then extend straight out into the ocean parallel to the ship channel as a sea jetty. In this way, it was believed the jetty would trap sand being carried eastward in the shore currents and hopefully build up in front of the fort naturally.
Accordingly, work on the project began in July, 1961. A seawall was begun northeast of the fort and extended around Bogue Point southward into the ocean as a sea jetty parallel to the ship channel in the inlet for 675 feet. The seawall-jetty system was 1250 feet long in all. The area between the wall and parking lot was backfilled with sand. Steps were built to provide access to the beach over this wall for the public. The work was at last completed in mid-April, 1962, at a cost of $145,380.29.
Meanwhile, the results of the Army Corps of Engineers joint study on erosion came out in early 1962. The study recommended further work to be added to what the state had just completed as part of a joint state-federal erosion control project. This project would cost an estimated $583,100, shared by both state and federal governments. The project would result in the creation, when finished, of a seawall-jetty system 2450 feet long. The additional 1200 feet needed to finish this system above what had just been completed by the state would be added to the length of the jetty portion of the system paralleling the ship channel. This would both save Bogue Point and reduce the amount of silt clogging the ship channel.
The state then prepared to go ahead with another part of the overall project with an appropriation of $260,000 by the 1963 N. C. General Assembly. The funds would be used to extend the sea jetty over 400 more feet and renourish the park bathing beach with dredge fill. An additional jetty was also needed to halt erosion occurring behind the extreme north end of the seawall.
Work began on this second phase of the beach erosion project in August, 1965. First, a new jetty was built on the north side of the point. Work was then done to extend the main sea jetty 410 feet further using stone brought up by barge. A dredge contract was also included in the project. It called for 100,000 cubic yards of dredge material to be pumped onto the bathing area. Both the construction and dredge projects were completed during the fall of 1965 at a cost of $305,360.
The result of the work was mixed. The extended sea jetty continued to be effective in building up the beach at Bogue Point with accretion. The dredge spoil at the swimming beach was not so successful. During the 1966 summer season, visitors turned loose a storm of complaints at having to climb the 8-foot high berm of dredge material studded with clay chunks and sharp seashells. The sea, meanwhile, ate away at the ocean side and created a high cliff. Within two years most of the material had eroded away, allowing storm tides to undermine the park bathhouse in December, 1967. A new bathhouse was built further back from the beach in 1968.
The state, meanwhile, went ahead with plans for the third and final phase of the beach erosion project. Work began in January, 1969. A new jetty was constructed east of the new park bathhouse to force the buildup of sand at the swimming beach. More dredge fill was pumped onto the swimming beach during May. Once again, a high berm was created that sparked heavy public protest.
The process of extending the big sea jetty 540 more feet began in the spring of 1969 and was completed in August, 1970. Including the seawall portion, the total length of the seawall-jetty system was now 2250 feet, only 200 feet short of what the Corps of Engineers had proposed in their 1962 study. The conclusion of this phase of the project marked the last attempt at hard stabilization of the beach against shore erosion in Fort Macon State Park.
As an evaluation of a century and a half of work to control shore erosion at Fort Macon, the shoreline of the park has now remained basically stable behind the bulwark of jetties. The big sea jetty has been most successful in keeping Bogue Point intact. In the late 1990s, some portions of the jetty were at times completely covered over with sand.
Since 1970, the ocean beach of the park has been renourished with dredge fill by the Corps of Engineers during 1977-78, 1993-94 and 2002. In each case, the amount of time the fill material remained on the beach before being washed away varied. At present, dredge material is being pumped on the beach once again in 2005.
As long as the structures built for the protection of Fort Macon over the years remain intact, it is doubtful that Fort Macon will ever be seriously threatened by shore erosion again. The most vulnerable part of the park beach will continue to be the middle and western sections, including the bathhouse area beach. Thus, the battle between Fort Macon and the Atlantic Ocean can never be considered as being over.