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Crystal Stokowski was walking along Delaware’s Indian River Inlet in search of surfable waves when she came across dozens of tires lining the beach.
“You could see them all the way down, because it was on a lower tide. They’re regular car or truck tires. So they’re not hard to miss,” said Stokowski, a Rehoboth resident who has documented and cleaned beach debris over the past several years.
“You don’t want this going back in the water. And you have all these people that surf during the winter here, and it’d be awful to be surfing and seeing a tire come at you,” she said.
Delaware environmental officials are investing whether more than 100 tires washed ashore came from old artificial reefs (Courtesy of Crystal Stokowski)
More than a hundred tires have washed ashore on Delaware beaches since late December, according to the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Now, the agency is investigating whether they drifted away from decades-old artificial reefs during recent heavy storms. Artificial reefs are made to improve fish habitat, enhance coastal erosion protection and provide marine research opportunities.
Tire sightings were first reported on Fenwick Island, and have since been discovered about 5 miles north in Bethany Beach. DNREC staff have been collecting the tires, which are then recycled.
“It is expected that more tires are likely to wash ashore after strong coastal storm events such as the state recently experienced,” the agency said in a statement.
The branding and styles of the tires suggest they may have come from an artificial reef built in the mid ‘70s or early ‘80s. During this time — and through the 1990s — car tires were commonly repurposed to build artificial reefs in the Mid-Atlantic, including in Delaware.