UPDATE: The North Ocean Beach on Assateague Island National Seashore is now open, per a release from the National Park Service.
The life-guarded beach was closed to the public July 31 after multiple unexploded military ordnance was found.
The Park Service said the beach was reopened Thursday after no more ordnance was found and “all material found on the beach has now been safely disposed of.”
“Visitors are reminded to not pick up any unknown metal objects found on the beach or in the surf. If you find something, please notify the nearest employee of Assateague Island National Seashore or Assateague State Park. Do not pick up or carry any of these objects as they are potentially dangerous due to explosive or propellent residue,” the release said.
A partial closure of Assateague Island National Seashore was in effect Sunday, July 31, 2022, after multiple unexploded military ordnance was found.
The North Ocean Beach Swimming area on the Maryland side of the island was closed until further notice, the National Park Service announced in a Sunday press release.
This closure was in effect because of the discovery of multiple (seven and counting), pieces of military munitions debris on the beach over the last two weeks. Most of these pieces are just metal fragments, but some may still contain residue of either explosives or propellent and, thus, must be considered dangerous.
“The ‘normal’ lifeguarded beach area is closed until further notice,” the park service said.
The beach was open both north and south of the lifeguarded area. The parking lot remains open. The Beach Hut will remain open. Lifeguards will be located immediately south of their normal area. The park urges visitor to not enter the closed areas or cross the closure barriers for their safety.
Why are we seeing ordinance now?
During the 1940s, the U.S. Navy used this area of Assateague Island as a test range for rockets and bombs. In the 1950’s a clean up was done, and munitions debris was buried in pits on the island. Due to the natural movement of the island and sea level rise, some of these pits are now offshore.
It is likely that the large nor’easter in May disturbed the nearshore seafloor and uncovered one of these pits, the press release states. This has resulted in pieces of ordinance coming ashore.
On July 13, military ordnance was located on the beach, causing a six-hour closure. On July 26, three suspected military ordnance also washed ashore in an area of North Ocean Beach. The devices were rendered safe.
How to stay safe? What’s being done?
Ocean City Bomb Squad and the Dover Air Force Base EOD team have been assisting the park in dealing with these items.
If you find a piece of unidentified metal on the beach, do not touch it, and notify park staff.
Unfortunately, there have been several instances of visitors picking up rocket fragments and carrying them to either the lifeguards or, in one instance the visitor center, the news release states. Do not do this as it is potentially very dangerous, the park service urges.
Park Management will meet this week with explosive ordnance disposal experts in an effort to develop a plan for going forward.
At this time, it is not known how long the closure will be in effect. For general information about the Seashore and park activities visit www.nps.gov/asis or call 410-641-1441.