Recycled Christmas Trees Help Fight Beach Erosion on the Outer Banks

Recycled Christmas trees strategically placed on the beach to help fight erosion and ensure the dunes stay healthy in the Outer Banks NC.

The holiday season is over so give your Christmas tree a much needed beach vacation!

Every year on the Outer Banks recycled trees are taken away and put on the beaches by the *Boy Scouts and a few other organizations.

This event will stimulate sand dune grass growth. Through scooping and shoveling sand on the lower limbs, or sometimes by being staked down, the trees are placed to their sides and are anchored to the beach. Over time, the needles of the tree become much denser than they are originally and can be useful in capturing and preventing sand movement effectively. The hedge of trees serves like a fence of natural sand. Who knew Christmas trees could also be so functional?

It is best practice to remove from the tree all ornaments, candles, ribbons, tinsel and other decorations. Subsequently, any unnatural things left on trees may become a threat to animals and marine life.

The stabilization of sand dunes requires a few different acts. For a healthy sand dune environment, wooden sand fences may help preserve sand and other resources that are required. But it can become very expensive and difficult to buy materials to build wooden fences, especially for all areas on the Outer Banks that need dune stabilization.

Beautiful sand dunes located on the Outer Banks.

For sand dune restoration, the use of Christmas trees is very beneficial. The trees rapidly decompose and supply grass seed with nutrients. When the seeds start germinating and the dune grass takes off. When using trees to promote grass growth, this will help reduce the negative effects of wind and water. 

For Christmas tree repurposing, the Town of Nags Head provides two choices. You should position it in front of your property by the side of the road and crews can make multiple passes to collect the trees in January. Or, to ensure they know your tree is available for processing, you should contact Nags Head Public Works Department at 252-441-1122.

*The Boy Scouts will be receiving all the trees collected by the Public Works Department.

This year, as the holiday season comes to a close, pause before you throw your Christmas tree to the trash, please remember that these big bits of greenery have a much greater reason for being than just a month long decoration. They are a vital part of saving the sand dunes of the ever-loved Outer Banks. Christmas trees help you enjoy your next beach vacation by making sure the dunes and the beach’s ecosystem stays healthy!

Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates encourages you to compost your Christmas trees, repurposing these trees will create long lasting differences on the OBX for future vacation beach enjoyment. So send these Christmas trees on an Outer Banks beach vacation now!

Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates is one of the most trusted vacation rental managers in the local area by growing into a market leader in the Vacation Rental and Sales Industry. Joe Lamb Jr. and his family have played a vital and intricate role in the Outer Banks Community for decades.

Over the past 50+ years, Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates have worked diligently to help promote the Outer Banks for the amazing beach and family vacation destination that it is, helping to increase tourism in the area and grow our beautiful community.

3000 Christmas Trees Help Stabilize Outer Banks Dunes

Placing  Christmas trees in Kitty Hawk. A surprising amount of muscle is needed to do it right.
Placing Christmas trees in Kitty Hawk. A surprising amount of muscle is needed to do it right.

Thanks to a some generous help from some Virginia Beach friends and some really hard work on the beach in Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, a lot of the sand dunes along the beach are looking better than ever.

Donny King chef/owner of Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk got a friend of his up in Virginia Beach to help with Christmas tree collection to stabilize the dunes.

The trees are great for the process. They trap a lot of sand so the dune can begin to regrow. And they are completely biodegradable, so in a couple of years, they’re gone.

It was Chico’s Pizza up in Virginia Beach that had been collecting them and when it wa all said and done they brought down 24 pickup trucks, most towing a trailer, loaded down with discarded Christmas trees.

Meanwhile here on the Outer Banks, there were a few hundred trees already gathered so the end result was somewhere around 2500-3000 trees to put on the beach in Kitty Hawk and Nags Head.

It’s not easy work rebuilding or stabilizing a dune using the trees. Sure the trucks can get them to the beach, but after that, it’s good old fashioned muscle to get them where they’re needed.

It’s not all that technical. The butt end of the tree points to the ocean, but getting them there entails dragging a 6-7’ tree over 100 or 150 yards of sand. 

Some of the pickup did try to get closer to where the trees were supposed to go. That was down in Nags Head. Not a good idea. Loaded down and in very soft sand, getting stuck was pretty much a foregone conclusion. They didn’t need to get towed, but it was a close call.

The trees are just one part of a dune stabilization program that includes planting grasses on the dunes. The larger, more stable dunes are a critical part of protecting property along the shore. 

It needs to be noted, though, that dunes are separate from the beach and whether a beach gains sand or loses it has very little to do with the dune.

Outer Banks beaches are the best there are and Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates has the perfect home just waiting for you.

Repurposing Christmas Trees on the Outer Banks

One option for a new home for used Christmas trees.
One option for a new home for used Christmas trees.

It’s such a simple idea it’s amazing that it works. After the holidays are done and all the trimmings come off the Christmas tree, create a new purpose for it. Place it at the base of a sand dune and let nature take its course.

Here on the Outer Banks it’s become sort of an annual rite of passage. 

The idea came from a project at Jockey’s Ridge State Park where some middle school students and Boy Scouts were laying out Christmas trees to capture sand and rebuild the dune.

it was just a natural progression for someone to figure, “Hey, if it works at Jockey’s Ridge, why wouldn’t it work on the beach?”

And the answer is, it does, and it does very well.

The first to start gathering trees was Betsy Seawell, owner of the Islander Motel in Nags Head. That was in 2009 right after Nor’Ida carved away the dune in front of her motel.

Pretty soon she was, as she describes herself, the Crazy Christmas Tree Lady, going up and down the Outer Banks collecting trees wherever she could find them.

About 2013 Donny King, owner of Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk had some ocean got in the game, although at the time he did not know about Betsy’s efforts. After Sandy passed and he saw that although the dunes were damaged they still kept the sea out of his restaurant, he figured a little help for the dunes was in order.

Donny knows a lot of people and he’s pretty savvy about media, so his efforts really took off.

H’s expanded his efforts now, doing a Better Beaches OBX that includes sand fencing, plants and of course, Christmas trees.

2020 may be the biggest year yet for Christmas trees. Trees can still be dropped off at Betsy’s motel, but the big shipment will be the  25 plus trucks loaded with trees that Donny has arranged to bring from Virginia Beach.

Spend some time in a Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and see for yourself how wonderful our Outer Banks home is.