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Virginia Coastal Program: 2008 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper

Project Title:

Seaside Special Area Management Plan: Recreational Use Survey & GIS Layer

Project Description as Proposed:

The overall SAMP Project consists of three phases, covering Fiscal Years 2008, 2009, 2010. The project will be led by the Virginia CZM Program in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the VA Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, and will be completed in the interval commencing September 1, 2009 and finishing March 31, 2012. The goals of this SAMP are (1) to map, analyze, and interpret the current status and trends in the uses, economic values, and beneficial ecosystem functions associated with state-owned habitats in the seaside bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, (2) to re-evaluate these uses in light of current and projected conditions, and (3) to recommend guidelines for the allocation of resources in a manner that optimizes the environmental and socio-economic benefits derived. Using GIS data, combined with stakeholder/user information, management agency input and the scientific evaluation of available data, the effectiveness of use allocation patterns such as state oyster grounds will be examined in the context of current stakeholder uses and needs, and current ecological conditions.  A consensus building process will result in a plan which recommends regulatory and other guidelines to increase economic productivity, enhance ecosystem health and resolve potential conflicts. The unique biological diversity, ecological health, and economic importance to local communities are all well documented for Virginia’s seaside bays. Virginia CZM’s long-term commitment to and investment in enhancing the wise use of coastal resources in this region has played a significant role in management of the seaside bays; this SAMP builds on those previous efforts, and particularly on the 6 year (FY 2002 – 2007) Seaside Heritage Program.

This grant application by the Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper will develop a GIS data layer of recreational use based on existing and new data to be collected by the Shorekeeper.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

David Burden, (757) 678-6182;

Project Status:

9/1/2009 - 6/30/2010; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Seaside Special Area Management Plan Recreational Use Study & GIS Layer Written Survey Results Final Report Oct. 1, 2008 - Sept. 30, 2009 (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The purpose of this project was to collect field data to determine areas of the seaside of the Eastern Shore of Virginia that are utilized for recreational use at a level that would be significant in spatial use planning. Techniques used in the collection of the usage data included aerial surveys, surface surveys, parking lot surveys, interviews with owners and staff of water related businesses, printed surveys and online surveys. To maximize participation, an incentive was provided for survey respondents in the form of a kayak giveaway at random to a survey participant.

The initial survey period was marked by unusual stretches of unfavorable weather. As a result aerial and surface survey results were not highly valuable or reflective of typical use patterns. As the weather improved so did the quality of the survey results. However, the relatively small scale of this project over such a large geographic area limited the number of redundant survey efforts that could be conducted. Interviews at boat ramps and other access points provided high quality data, but in very limited quantities. The decision to move to on-line surveys as well as surveys distributed through advertising in the local newspaper resulted in a significant increase in the quantity of data collected. Unfortunately the precision of the data suffered as a result of the limitations of this format of data collection.

In creating the Recreational Use Data Layer for the Seaside SAMP it should be noted that this survey should not be represented as a scientific survey on par with the significant efforts that have been made over the course of several years to create surveys of many species and habitats on the Seaside. This data does, however, show a snapshot of recreational use in a dynamic ecosystem that can be seen as indicative of traditional use patterns, and can be used to anticipate future recreational use patterns for purposes of spatial planning within the Seaside barrier island and coastal lagoon system of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Survey results were consistent in identifying the barrier island beaches as primary use areas with a focus on those beaches that have washed over the islands completely or wrap around the tips of the island to provide easy boat access from the Western side of the islands. Most recreational boaters stay close to the established channels leading from major launch sites out to the inlets between the islands, or to areas that provide easy beach access. On the Southern reaches of the coast there seems to be a slight trend toward more divergent use of the marshes as boaters have less defined options to get out to the inlets. There is also an increase in the use of kayaks outside of the main channels in areas where large expanses of salt marsh exist near the mainland.

It is notable that visiting fishermen tend to stick to well established use patterns. At the Wise Point Boat Ramp in the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge most boaters head toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or the south end of Smith Island. At Wachapreague most boats head straight to the inlets at Paramore Island. And at Chincoteague most recreational boaters stay in Chincoteague Bay.

While there was some level of recreational use witnessed in all areas of the Seaside, patterns were observed that could be significant in planning for future aquaculture and restoration uses of this region. However, a scientifically valuable survey of recreational use would require a significantly larger investment of time and money.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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