Dynamic Sustainability: Maryland's Atlantic Coast

Photo of ponies on Assateague Island


Ocean City and Assateague Island

Dynamic Sustainability: Shoreline Management on Maryland's Atlantic Coast

1934-1962, Ocean City Urbanizes While Assateague Island Reverts to Wilderness

Assateague Island

In 1934, Assateague Island was first surveyed as a possible location for a national seashore by the National Park Service (NPS). Legislative attempts to designate the island as a national seashore were made, but no formal action was taken. In 1943, Samuel Fields' descendents sold the family's land to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, which would become the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The land was designated as Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

On the Maryland side, however, there was an effort to develop a seaside community in the 1950s. A developer named Leon Ackerman bought, platted, and sold land to a few thousand buyers, but only about 30 structures were built during this time. He also donated 540 acres to the state of Maryland for a state park.

The NPS again surveyed potential national seashore sites in the early 1950s, but the report for Assateague Island deemed it to be in the "advanced stages" of development, so it was excluded as a possible site. Although few buildings had been completed, dune stabilization was taking place at this time to protect properties and eventual developments from storm damage.

In 1962 the Five-High Storm wreaked complete destruction on Assateague Island. Dunes were demolished by the storm, as were the few buildings on the ocean side that had been constructed. The platted streets for the subdivision were washed out and buried by sand.

The Five-High Storm thus showed that any developments on Assateague Island were constantly at risk of storm damage. The effects of the storm inspired NPS to once again investigate the possibility of acquiring Assateague Island for a national seashore.

More: Ocean City | Ocean City Inlet | Assateague

Reviewed 27 Sep 2016

Assateague Island

Assateague Island
Source: IAN Image Library

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was founded to provide habitat for disappearing snow geese. It quickly became an important stop on the Atlantic Flyway for snow geese and many other birds.