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Factory Point's white beaches prove a draw

Source: Daily Press Hampton News

HAMPTON (Virginia)  -  Hampton's newly rebuilt Factory Point is already proving popular with nature and sun seekers, according to the city.

The sand spit was washed away by a storm in 1998, leaving just a small island. After an extensive dredging and rebuilding project, it was reconstructed in the winter of 2009 and the spring of 2010, and joined to the northern end of the Grandview Nature Preserve in April. Factory Point was completed by contractor PreCon Marine for $3.75 million using a new Ellicott® Dragon® Series 670 cutter suction dredge. Hampton also spent about $300,000 on the project's design, planning and permitting.

It was an intensive process that saw contractors working around the clock to complete the spit before wildlife restrictions would have stopped work for the summer. The work was blown off course by last November's nor'easter which blasted a large hole in the work and cast a dredging barge adrift onto a bank near Dandy Point. PreCon Marine caught up by enlisting crews to work 24-hour shifts. About 228,500 cubic yards of sand were used to build the new Factory Point. It is approximately 8 feet high, 2,900 feet long and 300 feet wide.

Gayle Hicks, left, senior civil engineer, and Arthur W. Mertz, chief park ranger, of Hampton check out beach grasses, which were planted to protect dunes, at Factory Point in Hampton on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010.  An Ellicott® Dragon® Series 670 cutter suction dredge working in Hampton, Virginia. 

Over the summer, visitors to Factory Point were restricted to certain walkways and beach areas because of ordinances intended to safeguard nesting birds and to help bring back the tiger beetle. 

Bird species such as oystercatchers have been found to nest on Factory Point, and there are brown pelicans and Herring gulls. Three bird species found there are protected: the black skimmer, the least tern and the piping plover.

Hicks said Factory Point survived a stormy winter. "During construction it went through a lot of storms and survived," said Hicks. "It's doing really well."

As an engineering project, she said Factory point is "very unique" for the eastern United States. "I'm not aware of any other projects like this. I know they have projects in Dubai where they're actually building islands."

Beach grass has been planted on the central parts of the sand spit to help stabilize it, and there are five breakwaters to protect it from future storms. Although residents of some flood-prone Hampton neighborhoods believe the new Factory Point will protect them from flooding, Hicks said this is not a main objective of the project.

"It's been really good. It's been really well received by the public and the community," said Arthur Mertz, the chief park ranger for the city. "It's an oasis away from everyday activities." 

excerpted from an article in Daily Press Hampton News

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