Surf City has a largely rotating population of tourists and those who make a living during the spring and summer seasons. As one of the many homeowners who rents to the seasonal guests who flood this beach town every year, Beata Lorinc is especially aware of the gravity of beach erosion. By bringing awareness to her guests about the importance of preserving the dunes, she believes dune revival can begin with one person willing to create change. Beata decided to take action against the mistreatment of dunes in Surf City. That’s why she created the signs.
“When I bought the homes, I heard it was illegal to walk on the dunes and I complied, but I didn’t understand why,” she says. “Until I have been through this hurricane I didn’t know how much sand dunes meant. I didn’t understand why it was so critical.”
A Coldwell Banker realtor, Beata owns three oceanfront properties in Surf City. She saw first-hand the devastation brought on by Hurricane Florence. Since it’s September landfall, she has been largely focused on damage control, knowing the full extent of damage the wrong storm can inflict. The idea for the signs was born mostly out of frustration and exhaustion. As someone who lost time and money to Hurricane Florence, the dunes are hope for seasons to come.
The frustration she feels at the lack of awareness for the dunes is understandable: One of her home’s foundation cracked and it nearly fell into the ocean. The house next door was ultimately torn down due to damages from the storm.
In an effort to fend off beach erosion, the Town of Surf City has begun beach nourishment efforts, which include dumping sand so that it might attract the vegetation and wildlife needed to make it a proper dune; vegetation and wildlife that is sensitive to human interference.
“As soon as we started getting the sand dump, I’ve been watching people walk and crawl on the dunes, throw balls for the dogs up onto the dunes,” Beata says. “The dunes are our protection: beach, homes, sea turtles. If visitors understood they would comply. There are almost no signs on the beach. The only signs are off the public access and facing the street.”
Beata’s solution was to commission her own signs They range from informative, imploring, and educational. They inform readers of the importance of dunes, illustrate the need to stay clear of them, and warn of the $500 fine for walking on them. In February, Beata collected 150 email addresses of her neighbors who, like herself, managed rental properties from somewhere else, usually from the Raleigh-Durham triangle. She was offering the signs to her fellow homeowners for $45.00. Of the 150 people she reached out to, only 8 purchased the signs.
“We can’t just sit here and say no one reads signs,” Beata says. “Right now, the information isn’t being distributed quickly or widely enough.”
There’s fighting amidst the community over how to preserve the sand dumps so that they might become dunes populated with crucial wildlife. And, during these squabbles, sympathy for those who own oceanfront property and tourists tends to run dry.
“Everyone needs each other,” Beata says. “People who aren’t running vacation properties encourage not bringing tourists in. The tax revenue from the ocean front homes is a large percentage of the Surf City tax revenue. Without tourist revenue, how could the shops and restaurants stay open?”
Beata’s tactic is a simple one: put out signs that are hard to miss because they’re everywhere. If every beachfront home had a sign warning of the dune’s fragility, fewer people would unwittingly destroy them.
If Beata were to run for mayor of Surf City, it would be under the campaign, “A Sign for Every Home.” And if her fellow oceanfront homeowners won’t buy the signs, she hopes by offering the free high-resolution images online for free, she will encourage more people to leave the dunes alone (link to those signs at: https://bit.ly/2G5JbyI).
Beata says, “We all need each other. We oceanfront property owners need to take accountability. I’m not only putting one sign in front of my home, a minimum of six will go in front of them and I’ll invest in signs for homes on either side.”
Although dunes appear to only be another pile of sand of the beach, they are one of the most powerful tools a seaside community has in protecting itself against the next storm. It is not only beachfront properties that are jeopardized when dune ecosystems are compromised; without the dunes the entire island becomes prone to washing out to sea.
With Spring Break this week and a full season of tourists to come, without a unified stance towards dune preservation the nourishment efforts will be for naught. The stakes are high, do something now or not have a Surf City to visit with future generations. It starts with informing people who enjoy the beach how they can help maintain it, locals and visitors alike.
Beata understands that dunes don’t look like much to those who don’t know better. But she’s tired of the community’s apathetic response towards creating any meaningful change.
“Being belligerent to tourists isn’t helpful. Why should they care if we don’t?” Beata asks. “It begins with setting the precedent with how much we care about that property. We all need each other in this. “
Read more about Dune Awareness here: