There’s an old boardwalk half-buried in a tall dune near the Sugar Hill Beach Area at Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park. Park Manager Josh Hodson says park staff use the old boardwalk to show visitors the effects of hurricanes and the process of dune migration. A storm damaged the boardwalk decades ago, and now it serves as a reminder of the power of hurricanes to reshape natural landscapes.
In October 2018, Hurricane Michael tore through St. George Island, leveling dunes and damaging many facilities. In the time since then, staff and volunteers have made great strides toward getting the park back to normal. Community groups have worked in the park to clear debris and rope off sensitive shorebird-nesting areas.
“I see what needs to happen, maybe not today, but everything goes on the list,” Hodson said. “We’re going to put our best foot forward and do everything we can to help the park recover.”
The East Slough Beach Use Area is open for parking and access to the beach. Restrooms and rinse-off showers are available. The East Slough Boat Ramp is open, but sand infill means it is accessible only to shallow-draft vessels during high tide periods. The group camp boat ramp is open as well.
The largest dunes on the northern half of the park are all intact. Visitors can see the wrack line, a collection of organic marine debris like seaweed, at the base of the large dunes. The wrack line shows how high storm surge came onto the island. The smaller dunes close to the beach on the southern half of the park were damaged, but they can be regenerated with plantings and fencing. The resilient coastal ecosystems in the park are some of the best-suited to rebounding after hurricanes. With time and care, they will recover.