Assateague Plans 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend

BERLIN — This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Assateague Island National Seashore and everyone is invited to a celebration party this weekend.

Visitors can enjoy an “Entrance Fee Free 3-day Weekend” in the Maryland District on Sept. 19, 20 and 21. Join in for a fun-filled weekend of programs and activities for kids and families to enjoy in both the Maryland and Virginia districts of Assateague Island National Seashore.

On Saturday, Sept. 19 in the Maryland district, join the Annual Coastal Clean-up at 8:30 a.m. and then stay for a 50th Anniversary celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come out to North Ocean Beach day-use area in the national seashore for 1960’s beach music with DJ Sky Brady, sand sculpturer George Zaiser, birthday cake, cupcakes and drinks, 1960’s-era games for kids and families to play and be sure to sign our birthday card.

On Sunday, Sept. 20, the Maryland district offers a full day of programs including an aquarium talk, clamming and crabbing programs and a very special guest speaker, Eastern Shore local historian Tom Wimbrow at 2:30 p.m. in the Environmental Education Center.

The Virginia district offers two fun-filled days of programs and activities on anniversary weekend. On Saturday, Sept. 19, start the day off surf fishing or kayaking, stop in at the Toms Cove Visitor Center for a fascinating “Ocean Pharmacy” program, become an Assateague detective while searching for clues to solve beach mysteries and be sure to hang out for a special beach campfire with a “1960’s flavor” complete with s’mores at 6 p.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 20, join a morning bird walk or marine exploration, kayak the cove or stop by the visitor center throughout the day for a variety of critter and plant programs. Kayak trips are $20 per person and require reservations, all other programs are free. Entrance fees are in effect in the Virginia District. Please check out the website for the full weekend schedule.

Assateague Island was identified in a 1934 survey by the National Park Service and Department of the Interior as one of 12 areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts suitable for a national seashore recreation area. Consequently, numerous bills supporting establishment of the national seashore were introduced annually to Congress but with no action taken. In 1943, the Fish and Wildlife Service, another federal bureau interested in Assateague, and the Department of the Interior established the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Virginia end of the island. In the intervening years, most of the Maryland portion of Assateague was purchased for private development.

Residential construction, road and infrastructure development were well underway, including a failed attempt to build a bridge to the island. Interestingly, on multiple occasions the state of Maryland proposed creation of a state park on Assateague without result. Then, in 1956, the developer adeptly donated 540 acres to Maryland in exchange for creation of a new state park and construction of a bridge. March 6, 1962, a powerful storm hit Assateague, overwashed the island and destroyed most of the development’s roads and structures. This infamous “Ash Wednesday” storm provided an unexpected opportunity for the Department of the Interior to acquire the remaining portion of Assateague Island as a national seashore.

Assateague Island National Seashore was officially established Sept. 21, 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Most of the Maryland district is managed by the National Park Service as Assateague Island National Seashore. The State of Maryland manages two miles of the Maryland district as Assateague State Park. The Virginia district is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The National Park Service operates the Toms Cove Visitor Center and a recreational beach within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Assateague Island is one of the largest and last surviving Mid-Atlantic barrier islands containing  intact coastal habitats where the full range of natural processes occur with little or no human interference. The 32,000 acres of marine and estuarine waters within the seashore are a protected vestige of the high quality aquatic ecosystems that once occurred throughout the Mid-Atlantic coastal region of the United States.

The seashore’s habitats support a broad array of aquatic and terrestrial species, many of which are rare, uniquely adapted to life at the edge of the sea, and dependent upon natural ecosystem processes undisturbed by humans.  Amidst the highly developed Mid-Atlantic region, the seashore’s coastal resources provide unique opportunities for nature-based recreation, education, solitude and inspiration.

In 2014, 2,170,681 visitors enjoyed high quality resource-compatible recreational experiences at Assateague spending $90,417,200 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,241 jobs in the local area.