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It Takes a Village: Two Companies Help Save CBF Island Study Center

Port Isobel IslandPort Isobel Island, located east of Tangier Island in Virginia, is home to one of CBF’s five island study centers. Annually, more than 1,000 students and teachers learn about the Bay in the island’s unique and inspirational setting. Photo by CBF staff.

As the waves lap along the shore of Port Isobel Island, a 250-acre island east of Tangier Island in Virginia, the beauty and serenity belies a stark reality. Erosion has been slowly eating away at the island’s northeast shoreline for decades. Over just the last 10 years, hundreds of feet of shoreline have been lost.

The erosion threatened not just the island but also CBF’s Port Isobel Island Study Center, with several buildings located yards away from the shoreline. The Center is one of CBF’s five island study centers and, every year is where more than one thousand students and teachers participate in hands-on environmental learning that encourages them to become conscientious stewards of the Bay.

To save the island and the center, on the recommendation of an engineering firm, CBF began constructing six stone breakwaters offshore. These breakwaters stabilize the shoreline and offer storm protection. Requiring more than 4,000 tons of stone and construction, project costs would be steep, but it had to be done.

Thankfully, two companies stepped up to help CBF complete the project.

Vulcan Materials Company, the nation's leading supplier of construction aggregates—primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel, and ready-mixed concrete—provided the needed stone for the breakwaters and transported the stone to the site using their tug boat and barges, at a significantly reduced price that saved CBF tens of thousands of dollars. The stone came directly from Vulcan’s Havre de Grace Quarry located off the Susquehanna River in Harford County, Maryland. Special thanks to Vulcan employees John Smack, District Sales Manager; Steve Magdeburger, Manager Marine Operations; Travis Holman, Area Operations Manager; and Tom Carroll, Director of Business Development, who went above and beyond for CBF to make this donation happen.

With a corporate philosophy that stresses sustainability, environmental stewardship, and community involvement, their contribution to this project is fitting. Vulcan has operations in 22 states across the nation but has a significant presence in both Virginia and Maryland. The company also invests in education and works regularly with schools and school-aged children through their adopt-a-school partnerships, which makes this project a perfect fit.

One of Vulcan’s most successful environmental programs has been developing buffer lands around its facilities for wildlife habitat. In 1990, through cooperative efforts with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), Vulcan’s Sanders Quarry near Warrenton, Virginia, became the first industrial site in the nation to be certified by WHC as a wildlife habitat. Vulcan now has 42 certified wildlife habitats at sites across the country. Five of these sites are additionally certified by WHC as Corporate Lands for Learning in recognition of their outstanding educational and community outreach programs.  Since then Vulcan has also developed partnerships with many other regional conservation organizations including the VCU Rice Center, Elizabeth River Project, Friends of the Lower Appomattox River Association, James River Association, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and others.

The logic behind their corporate philosophy is easy to understand; as Tom Carroll, Vulcan’s Director of Business Development and External Affairs for the East Region, puts it, “When you’re in the natural resources business, like Vulcan is, every day is Earth Day. Being responsible stewards of the environment is important to all Vulcan employees.”

Coastal Design and Construction, Inc. also stepped up to help CBF save Port Isobel. The Gloucester, Virginia-based construction company, actually constructed the breakwaters with the stone that Vulcan provided. To help allay some of the costs, Coastal Design and Construction donated a portion of the required materials, further reducing the impact to CBF’s bottom line.

The final step in the project is slated for completion this spring, when submerged eel grass will be planted near the shore to improve water quality and further stabilize the shoreline.

The project has been a resounding success and would not have been possible without the donations from Vulcan Materials Company and Coastal Design and Construction. CBF salutes both companies for their support! The work to save Port Isobel shows how a community can come together to make the impossible possible.

—Brie Wilson

To learn more about how you can help save the Bay, please visit

PhotoTwo of the stone breakwaters sit off the northeastern shore of Port Isobel. Photo by Laura Burrell Baxter/CBF Staff.



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