The sand dunes lining Tybee’s coastlines are protected by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources under the Shore Protection Act. It is prohibited to walk on the dunes, and is punishable with fines up to $1,000 dollars.
Steep fines are with good reason as the dunes function as the island’s natural erosion control. Dunes are an integral part of the sand sharing system of barrier islands, playing a vital role in preserving shorelines. Dunes are the first line of defense from Atlantic storms, increased wave action and flooding surges. Sand dunes are thriving ecosystems for sea turtle and shore bird nesting, as wells as an abundant food sources for migrating monarchs.
Local beaches are adorned with the golden plumes of sea oats, the master builders of the dunes. A dune’s success is owed to native sea oats and the sand storage they provide. The perennial grass extends six feet into the air trapping wind blown sand. Its roots penetrate 30 feet deep to anchor and stabilize. The network of tangled roots unify the dune system, therefore, it is illegal to pick or cut wild sea oats.