Dutch island nearly lost at sea
The Netherlands might lose Rottumeroog, a built-up island in the waddeneilanden chain. There is still a bird-ranger's house standing on Rottumeroog, which is occupied in the summer months. But the island will become a barren sand bank from the end of this week. The bird-ranger's house is the last remaining building on the island that was still populated until the mid-20th century. It will be demolished this week.
The heavy storm in December of last year has torn away most of the dunes along the structure, which means that the last remaining building could disappear in the waves. The demolition of the house will mark the end of Rottumeroog. This process has been going since Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch state agency for water management and transport, stopped the artificial strengthening of the coast in the 90s. "Rottumeroog is slowly changing into a sandbank with young dunes", says Jorien Bakker, spokesperson at Staatsbosbeheer (State forest maintenance). "For the nature, this isn't bad. But for those attached to the existence of this Groningse island, it is sad." The demolition comes less than a month after the only vehicle track on Rottumeroog received an official street name: the Jan Brandspad. According to the municipality Eernsmond, who is in charge of the island, the granting of the name was legally mandatory due to the island being built-up. Initially, there was also a plan to hang boards with street names, but that has been let go. The bird-ranger's house will not be rebuilt. "It stood on the highest point of the Island", Bakker said. "If it doesn't work there, then where?" Along with the building, the last remaining human occupancy on 'Oog' is also disappearing. For the first time in years, there won't be any bird-rangers staying on the island this summer. Eventually, Stadsbosbeheer wants bird-rangers to camp on the island in, for example, a 'collapsible building'. But there is still a lack of funding for this. Although the volunteer bird counters are seen as crucial for the management of nature on the island, there have been financing problems for years. If the house would have stayed, they might have had a few years left at least. "But the demolition is already costing us €60,000." "it is a new point in the history of the island" says Dick Spijker, president of the Friends of Rottumeroog Foundation (Stichting Vrienden van Rottumeroog). The organization has devoted itself for years to sand suppletion, so that the sea can't have free range anymore. But no longer. "You have to accept things as they are."
The disappearance of the house also means that tourist excursions are up for discussion, as well as actions from the Friends Foundation to clean up stray litter.