Assateague Island Alliance
Mention Assateague Island National Seashore to anyone from the Mid-Atlantic region or the politicos inside the Beltway, and they’re all likely to paint a similar mental picture of wild horses gently galloping along the idyllic sand beaches of an island escape. But few outside the region are as quick to identify this national seashore as the home of the iconic wild horses chronicled in Marguerite Henry’s famous book “Misty of Chincoteague,” which focused largely on their feral counterparts across the border in Virginia.
Hoping to change that and bring attention to this largely untouched strip of seashore is the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), the official nonprofit Friends Group supporting Assateague Island National Seashore.
Formed in 2008, this member-based organization enhances the visitor experience by supporting educational, interpretive, scientific, and recreational programs at the park. And with 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of the park’s designation, there couldn’t be a better time to start spreading the word.
In commemoration of this half-century milestone, AIA is hosting a year-long celebration with events and activities highlighting all that Assateague has to offer – beyond their iconic wild horse population so familiar to local residents. On September 19, the park will mark its official 50th birthday party celebration with a coastal cleanup hosted by the Alliance and partners.
In addition to this year’s celebration, AIA also manages year-round initiatives like the always popular Foster Horse program, an education outreach effort that informs the public about horse population management strategies and raises funds to help support the Maryland herd.
As part of AIA’s commitment to providing more opportunities for visitors to engage in health and wellness activities in national parks, the group hosts Yoga on the Beach every Saturday morning from June through September, as well as upcoming Full Moon Yoga sessions on August 29 and September 22 in the evening.
And if you’d prefer a more up-close-and-personal experience with Assateague’s most famous residents, AIA is hosting an all-day en plein air workshop titled, “Introduction to Painting Wild Horses from Life,” with painter Karen McLain, giving attendees the chance to tap into their inner-artist while taking in the breathtaking views of the seashore.
There is no shortage of ways to get involved and to learn more about this young, but active organization. To plan your next Assateague getaway or to learn how you can help, visit AIA’s website or check out its Facebook page for updates and announcements.
Photo credits: Horses on Assateague by NPS, Yoga on the Beach by AIA, Stallion painting by Karen McLain