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Beach Walk a tradition of more than three decades at Assateague

12/24/13 | By Clara Vaughn, Staff Writer/Ocean City Today

(Dec. 27, 2013) Join the Assateague Coastal Trust for its 34th annual Ilia Fehrer/Judy Johnson New Year’s Day Beach Walk at Assateague National Seashore on Wednesday, Jan. 1.

A former National Park Service Ranger will lead a group north from the State Park parking lot, highlighting some of the natural and historic elements of the barrier island, ACT Office Manager Matt Heim said.

“People appreciate what Assateague has to offer as a natural barrier island. People recognize the uniqueness of that and appreciate what’s there,” Heim said. “It’s an opportunity to get together and see that.”

The New Year’s walk kicked off in 1980, the year former President Jimmy Carter declared “Year of the Coast.”

“It was started as a local way to tie into that idea of the ‘Year of the Coast’ and introduce people to some of the local features here,” Heim said.

Ilia Fehrer, a voice for Worcester County’s wetlands and shoreline, helped organize the first beach walk with the help of the Committee to Preserve Assateague, now known as the Assateague Coastal Trust. The walk is named in honor of Fehrer and founder of the Committee to Preserve Assateague Judy Johnson.

Last year, hundreds took to the beach on New Years Day, Heim said. Participants can never guess what they’ll see, but recent snowy owl sightings on Assateague could make for an interesting walk this year, he said.

“Up in that northern area of the beach, we’ve found stranded dolphins, whale bones, pieces of ship wrecks,” he said. “It just depends on what the ocean wants to serve up.”

Heim added: “The winter’s a really good time for looking for shells. (There’s) plenty of whelk shells, scallops and things like that.”

Entry to the park is free for the New Years walk, which should last about an hour.

“Just dress for the whether for the weather and show up,” Heim said.

Meet ACT staff and others in the Assateague State Park parking lot at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1 to join the beach walk. From Route 50, take Route 611 south across the Verrazano Bridge, then turn right on the third road into the State Park’s parking lot.

Call ACT at 410-629-1538 for more information.  

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