Learning about “Healthy Beaches”

Wasaga Beach-20151125-01793On November 25th there was a huge turnout at a “Healthy Beaches” Speaker Series sponsored by Wasaga Beach Provincial Park. An estimated 60 people listened attentively to the following very informative talks:
  • Marjorie Ridley, resident of Wasaga Beach showed photos and shared her experience of the changes in the beach over the past 6 decades.
  • Ashley Wallis from Environmental Defence talked about the international Blue Flag Program and the benefits of this status, which Wasaga Beach has.
  • Jim Roy of Environment Canada talked about phosphorous and why we should be concerned about too much of it in freshwater lakes. He then outlined his research at Wasaga Beach looking at phosphorus in groundwater and its relationship to decommissioned septic beds and other sources.
  • Will Robertson from the University of Waterloo reviewed his research into phosphorus loading in 18 stormwater ditches in Wasaga Beach and the importance of addressing this issue in the Nottawasaga River watershed.
  • David Feathersone of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority reviewed post-glacial history of the Wasaga beach area, provided many examples of the healthy and colourful vegetation found on our beaches, and how important these are in dynamic beach systems where plant species have evolved in the presence of change.
The final presentation was by Dr. Allen Crowe of the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation.  This presentation provided many practical applications that are well worth sharing here. He talked about “wet beaches” vs “dry beaches”, where dry ones are typically considered to be healthier. Dry beaches occur at higher elevations from the water table and attract the kind of vegetation that holds the sand (i.e prevents erosion). Wet beaches attract “opportunistic” species of plants that do little to hold the sand. This is important since Wasaga is a “relic” beach which has a non-renewable supply of sand.
Examples of native plants on dry beaches include Wormwood, Beach Pea and beach grasses such as American Beach Grass (Marram Grass).
In conclusion Dr. Crowe provided the following “Dos” and “Don’ts”:
  • Don’t bulldoze beaches – it lowers the level of the sand, thus attracting the wrong type of vegetation.
  • Do leave beach grass in place and plant more.
  • Use snow fencing as an alternative to beach grass while awaiting it’s growth.
  • Avoid seawalls (retaining walls). The tendency is to bulldoze the sand away from the walls, thus lowering the level and destroying beach grass.
  • Do not create lawns. Turf grass has many down sides. It is even more invasive than the dreaded. Phragmites! It spreads to the beach and can attract geese. Plant beach grass instead of turf grass.
  • Do maintain a natural beach and healthy vegetation on your beachfront property.
  • Dune Picture for slides

    A dry “Healthy Beach” with native grasses

    Submitted by Fiona Ryner

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