When Nature’s Wrath Benefited The Area

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This weekend the 50th anniversary of Assateague Island National Seashore will be celebrated with several events. Earlier this summer, Assateague Island State Park had a similar event.

Around these parts, Mother Nature holds all the proverbial cards. It’s oftentimes the difference between good fortune and misery for local businesses, governments and workers. On the more drastic level, it can be life changing when it comes to property damage and loss of human life.

Fifty years ago, although it surely didn’t seem that way at the time, Mother Nature did us all a huge favor when it comes to Assateague Island, which is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the area’s crown of special offerings.

Assateague Island was well on its way to becoming a residential community in the late-1950s and early-1960s until a major storm — later called the “Ash Wednesday” event — on March 6, 1962 wrecked the island, destroying roads and nearly all the structures that had been built as part of an early residential development. Prior to this storm, there were several attempts to safeguard the island from development in favor of a state and federal park. It took Mother Nature’s wrath to further those efforts.

Thanks to its pristine views, coastal resources, waterfront camping and ocean and bay recreational opportunities, Assateague Island — whether it be the Maryland, Virginia or federal areas — is a special place. In 2014, it’s estimated that 2.1 million visitors came to Assateague, spending upwards of $90 million in surrounding areas. That economic impact equates to a support of 1,241 jobs in the local area.

This region has a love-hate relationship with the weather. It can make or break a weekend or a season for the private sector as well as government operations. With so many dependent on the weather for financial success in this area, it’s ironic that Mother Nature did us one huge favor 50 years ago when it prevented private development on Assateague and forced government officials to do what was being sought for so many years — entering into an agreement to make it a natural resource forever. It might not have seen like a blessing back then, but time has confirmed it was, at least as far as Assateague Island is concerned.

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