Assateague Island National Seashore Celebrates 50 Years

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Date: January 24, 2015
Contact: Liz Davis, 410-629-6087

Berlin, MD -2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Assateague Island National Seashore and we invite everyone to the party! Stay tuned for activities each month of 2015. Please check our website for highlights and "like" us on Facebook at AssateagueNPS. We look forward to a golden anniversary celebrating with our friends and neighbors all year long!

Assateague Island was identified in a 1934 survey by the National Park Service and Department of the Interior as one of 12 areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts suitable for a national seashore recreation area. Consequently, numerous bills supporting establishment of the national seashore were introduced annually to Congress but with no action taken. In 1943, the Fish and Wildlife Service, another federal bureau interested in Assateague, and the Department of the Interior established the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Virginia end of the island. In the intervening years, most of the Maryland portion of Assateague was purchased for private development. Residential construction, road and infrastructure development were well underway, including a failed attempt to build a bridge to the island. Interestingly, on multiple occasions the state of Maryland proposed creation of a state park on Assateague without result. Then, in 1956, the developer adeptly donated 540 acres to Maryland in exchange for creation of a new state park and construction of a bridge. March 6, 1962, a powerful storm hit Assateague, overwashed the island and destroyed most of the development's roads and structures. This infamous "Ash Wednesday" storm provided an unexpected opportunity for the Department of the Interior to acquire the remaining portion of Assateague Island as a national seashore.

Assateague Island National Seashore was officially established September 21, 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Most of the Maryland district is managed by the National Park Service as Assateague Island National Seashore. The State of Maryland manages two miles of the Maryland district as Assateague State Park. The Virginia district is managed by the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service as Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The National Park Service operates the Toms Cove Visitor Center and a recreational beach within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Assateague Island is one of the largest and last surviving Mid-Atlantic barrier islands containingintact coastal habitats where the full range of natural processes occur with little or no human interference. The 32,000 acres of marine and estuarine waters within the seashore are a protected vestige of the high quality aquatic ecosystems that once occurred throughout the Mid-Atlantic coastal region of the United States. The seashore's habitats support a broad array of aquatic and terrestrial species, many of which are rare, uniquely adapted to life at the edge of the sea, and dependent upon natural ecosystem processes undisturbed by humans. Amidst the highly developed Mid-Atlantic region, the seashore's coastal resources provide unique opportunities for nature-based recreation, education, solitude and inspiration.

In 2013, 2,056,827 visitors enjoyed high quality resource-compatible recreational experiences at Assateague spending $84,350,400 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,052 jobs in the local area.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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Mailing Address:

7206 National Seashore Lane
Berlin, MD 21811


(410) 641-1441

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