Popular Chesapeake Bay resort in historic town launches resilience project that will ecologically restore their shoreline

On March 17, 2021, the Tides Inn, a resort situated on the Chesapeake Bay estuary in Virginia, announced plans for a shoreline restoration project, which will deepen its guests’ connection to the land, shoreline and water.

Located in the historic town of Irvington in the heart of Virginia’s Northern Neck region, the Tides Inn is a waterfront property situated on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, about three hours from Washington, DC and one hour from Richmond, Virginia.

The Inn’s Chesapeake Restaurant and Fish Hawk Oyster Bar—both with views of Carter’s Creek—sources much of its cuisine locally from Virginia farms, orchards and waterways.

The $3.6 million ecological restoration and resilience project includes a “living shoreline” along Carter’s Creek, beach restoration, hands-on educational programming and community partnerships. The first phase of a larger, multi-year project, this inaugural phase is slated to be complete in summer 2021.

The initial objective of the project was to stabilize the land and protect it from destructive erosion. After exploring a variety of stabilization options, sisters Tracy Tang Limpe and Dana Tang—two of the owners of the Tides Inn—realized there was an opportunity to do much more.

We are committed to making the Tides Inn a year-round destination for discerning travelers seeking a greater connection to place. In addition, it is important to us that we are responsible stewards of the land and Carter’s Creek. The shoreline project is one of several investments we are making toward this goal,” said Tang Limpe.

Gluckman Tang Architects, in which Dana Tang is a partner, was the design lead for this project. According to Tang, “Close collaboration with Virginia-based Waterstreet Studio has been key to the development of our vision. With the implementation of a ‘living shoreline,’ we can enhance the waterfront from an environmental point of view, while providing meaningful experiences for our guests.”

Waterstreet Studio, a landscape architecture firm, along with Bay Design Group, the civil engineers on the project, will assist in the development of a curvilinear wharf and nature trail, as well as restoration of the property’s original beach and shoreline. These improvements will allow for new protective measures and future preservation.

The living shoreline will wind around the northern perimeter of the property and will be comprised of native low marsh, high marsh and upland plantings held in place with a combination of rock and live oyster sills.

In other locations, a vinyl sill and coir log combination will be fastened along the pilings of the wharf as an alternative method to hold newly planted marsh grasses in place.

These shoreline restoration measures are designed to revitalize and reestablish the Tides’ native creek side, which is rapidly succumbing to invasive plant species and erosion, a recurring problem found throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. Additionally, the team has taken a similarly sensitive approach to the upland hillside, preserving an existing old-growth grove of Chestnut Oaks at the top of the bluff.

Eugene Ryang, Principal at Waterstreet Studio notes, “The restored and, in some places, completely reintroduced marshlands will play a vital role in the ecological health of Carter’s Creek. We have worked closely with Gluckman Tang and Bay Design Group to create an integrated estuarine shoreline ecosystem using infrastructure, such as the pedestrian wharf, to not only frame and contain the reconstructed land and plants, but also to provide a continuous and accessible observation platform for engagement by all visitors to the Tides Inn.”

The Tides Inn waterfront project will include:

  • 18,000 square feet of new living shoreline;
  • 150 linear feet of oyster reef;
  • 42 new trees;
  • The preservation of approximately 30 old-growth trees;
  • The addition of 10,600 shoreline plants and 10,900 upland plants; and
  • 1,300 linear feet of new wharf along the water’s edge.

Another important aspect of this project is the new programming it will provide. The Tides Inn Managing Director, Jason Trollip, has appointed Will Smiley as the resort’s resident ecologist. With a Master of Education in Sustainability and 17 years of teaching experience at nearby Christchurch School, Smiley knows how to create interactive and educational waterfront experiences.

The Tides Inn is actually a partner with Mother Nature in this project, as the living shoreline will improve water quality and increase the diversity of plant and wildlife species,” said Smiley. “My goal is for each and every guest to be enriched by our waterfront preservation and related programming and leave inspired to become environmental stewards in their own communities.

Starting this spring at the Tides Inn, Smiley has developed several new programs for guests, including:

  • Beautiful Swimmers: Smiley teaches guests about the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab (whose scientific name, Callinectes Sapidus, translates to “beautiful swimmer”), how they are caught and even how to bait a crab pot;
  • Life in Carter’s Creek: Guests paddle along Carter’s Creek with Smiley and walk a seine net through the water to learn what living creatures lie beneath the surface. Guests create a temporary aquarium to examine the catch; and
  • Chesapeake Gold: Guests learn why oysters, the keystone species of our region, are essential filters of the bay (a single oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day). This activity includes a chance to sample fresh oysters on the half shell.

As the new wetlands filter the water and provide a natural habitat for birds, aquatic life and other species along the shoreline, additional programs will be added, such as foraging for edible plants, birding tours and an expansion of the popular Tides Inn Oyster Experience.

Last year, we opened two new spaces at the Tides: the Maker Space and Chef’s Kitchen,” said Trollip. “It’s been fun for our team to create engaging, hands-on experiences – ranging from Pottery & Pinot to culinary classes. The living shoreline will provide a platform for a range of immersive outdoor activities, that are unique to our place, for our guests.

Demonstrating its continued commitment to the Northern Neck region of Virginia, the Tides Inn will engage local community and environmental groups, such as the Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR), in this project and subsequent programming.

Anne Self, Lower Rappahannock River Steward with FOR, said, “This project builds on our Clean Carter’s Creek program, which works with local partners to restore oyster reefs, shorelines and upland landscapes. The Tides’ living shoreline will be a showpiece for conservation and clean water and will go a long way towards meeting regional water quality goals, for a healthy and scenic Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay. We are excited to support this project at the Tides Inn.”

Regarding the far-reaching impact of this undertaking, Dana Tang responded, “With this restoration of the shoreline, we hope to enhance our guests’ connection to our ‘place,’ and at the same time, contribute to the future health of Carter’s Creek and its habitat and provide an amenity for the greater community.

Renderings are courtesy of Waterstreet Studios. Photos are courtesy of Tides Inn.

Learn more about the shoreline restoration project at the Tides Inn.

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