restored dune

DuneLadder dune

The DuneLadder Story

A nor'easter bearing waves of 4-5 feet smashed the shoreline of Long Island Sound and storm tidewaters flooded the basements and properties of beach front homes. Mt. Sinai Harbor residents Charles and Nancy West looked out to see their deck, a mere 15 feet from the house, semi-suspended in mid-air, a victim of the devastating erosion below.

Avid environmentalists, the Wests determined to restore their beach without resorting to the conventional concrete seawalls and wooden bulkheads common to the Long Island coast. "We couldn't afford either one," Charles said, " and we wanted to retain the natural appearance of the dunes. Besides, we weren't convinced those methods were really all that effective."

To make their point, the Wests note the concrete seawall surrounding their neighbor's property. It did withstand the ocean's pounding but waves rebounding off of it demolished an adjoining wooden bulkhead. The area behind and around the concrete structure was severely undercut as well. "It's just a matter of time," Charles said, "before it too succumbs to the force of the sea. You can't fight the ocean and win but maybe, just maybe, you can work with it and make peace."

A native Long Islander and carpenter by trade, Charles West took advantage of the winter building lull and set to work designing a fresh approach to nature's challenge that would also have a minimal impact on the delicate coastal environment. The DuneLadder was born. (See "How It Works")

West's design anchors sturdy timbers into beach as a foundation for the attachment of a curved structure of angled slats that form a graduated curve, mirroring the shape of a wave. Once installed and backfilled with sand, the structure disappears into the dune. Salt grass is planted and nature takes over from there.

The following summer, West built a scale model of his design and then transported it to a beach on the Island's East End. "We anchored it midway between the low and high tide lines," West recalls," and waited to see how it would hold up against the pounding surf. It worked exactly as I had envisioned."

West and his partner Glenn Olsen went through the labyrinth of patenting the DuneLadder as West also undertook the process of procuring the necessary permits to build the first working model in his own front yard.

The following winter, west went to work. His neighbor agreed to join the venture allowing the DunLadder's artificial dune to extend across two full property lots. The final cost was far less than a comparable concrete seawall or wooden bulkhead.

Time tells the true story, the Wests' old dune line has been restored and the only evidence that man has interceded is the integrity of their beach front with the salt grass waving in the breeze.


Pictured top left: The restored dune at the Wests' beach front property.

Top right: The installed DuneLadder with naturalized salt grass.

Special thanks to Robert Lee's article, "Necessity Leads to Invention on Long Island's North Shore," from which the story was taken.