Hands Across the Sand events set for Hampton Roads

Joe Bouchard, left, former base commander of Naval Station Norfolk, speaks at last year's Hands Across the Sand event on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront (Rami Yoakum/Southside Daily)
Joe Bouchard, left, former base commander of Naval Station Norfolk, speaks at last year’s Hands Across the Sand event on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront (Rami Yoakum/Southside Daily)

The drilling for oil off the shores of Virginia remains a highly contentious topic of debate and on May 18 those who oppose the practice will come together in Hampton Roads to join their Hands Across the Sand.

Founded in 2010 after the devastating Deepwater Horizon BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Hands Across the Sand has grown into an annual event, with 124 separate events last year in 17 states and seven different nations.

This will be the 10th year for the event in Virginia Beach.

“The annual event is a gathering and a demonstration where folks join hands across a waterfront to represent unity in protecting our coasts and stopping offshore drilling,” said Ann Creasy, community outreach coordinator of the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter. “With the new Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing program and the threat of offshore drilling back on the table, it is a critical time for Virginians to unite to protect our coast.”

Creasy said the event is an opportunity for communities to gather in opposition to offshore drilling and that every year marine experts, business owners, elected officials, and other community members speak about the potential impacts of offshore drilling.

This year's Hands Across the Sand event will take place at three locations in Hampton Roads (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Sierra Club's Virginia Chapter)
This year’s Hands Across the Sand event will take place at three locations in Hampton Roads (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter)

The event gives people a chance to learn more, network, ask questions, and participate in a national demonstration that builds awareness on the risk that offshore drilling poses for out coastal way of life, organizers said.

“People living in Hampton Roads have a new average headed our way,” she said. “We are on the front lines of sea-level rise and are susceptible to the impacts of climate change in a unique way.”

The impacts of fossil fuel use will be directly felt by this area, she added, so it is critical important that people begin understanding these problems, talking with other people, and uniting to find solutions.

The event begins at 11 a.m. and there will be petitions to sign and information on ways to write letters to elected officials, as well as to the federal administration to halt seismic testing and offshore drilling for oil and gas. Each event will host speakers beginning at around 11:30 a.m. with the joining of hands on the beach beginning at noon.

Hundreds of people line up across the sand last year during the Hands Across the Sand event in Virginia Beach (Rami Yoakum/Southside Daily)
Hundreds of people line up across the sand last year during the Hands Across the Sand event in Virginia Beach (Rami Yoakum/Southside Daily)

Hands Across the Sand events will be at four separate locations in Virginia, with three of those in Hampton Roads: 20th Street at the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach; Ocean View Beach Park in Norfolk; and Buckroe Beach and Park in Hampton, as well as an event on the Eastern Shore at Willis Wharf.

“Climate change aside, there is also the threat to our tourism industry and our dependence on marine life for fishing/aquaculture,” Creasy said. “If there was offshore drilling in the Atlantic, our economy, food, health, and way of life would be at risk.”

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