Strong, natural, attractive buffer needed along Lake Huron shoreline
March 18, 2023
To the Editor:
After a walk along our beautiful beaches this sunny weekend, I am writing to express my long-time concern and new sense of urgency to find a solution to the shoreline erosion problems that continue to face Ontario’s west coast communities.
As the winter snow melts, the deteriorating situation reveals itself again. Local municipalities have tried various strategies with various levels of success - depending on how that success is measured. They must work toward an imminent solution before there is nothing left to work with.
Without action soon, our greatest means of collecting tourism dollars will be lost. Wildlife will lose its home. Local citizens will lose their recreation areas. The entire West Coast area will lose its beach identity.
Last year, the Municipality of Kincardine spent months and millions of dollars shoring up Goderich Street with giant boulders to stop the road from crumbling into the water. Officially, the municipality achieved its goal; the street was safe for cars to drive on this year. Unfortunately, the municipality forgot to consider the many other uses of this area when developing the plan.
This used to be a vibrant beach where children could play and retirees could walk, but now it is an ugly, barren wasteland. Simply adding wide stone steps or ramps every 100 metres or so, would have granted access to the shore for surfers and paddle-boarders who flock to the area and spend their dollars in local businesses, not to mention the local residents who pay high taxes to enjoy a body of water that is no longer accessible to them.
Just to the south, the Township of Huron-Kinloss has taken a very different tack. The beaches there are also eroding at an alarming rate. The grass ramp with the bench and boulder, south of Huronville Road, was a beautiful meeting place with railroad-tie steps and an easy slope down to the sand a mere two years ago. Today, it is a small patch of grass leading to a steep cliff of boulders.
The bench by the boiler fell into the lake last year. The historical plaque reminding us of the tragic fate of the sailors aboard the great ship Erie Belle, is just about to follow them to their watery grave.
Some say the neglect is because Huron-Kinloss is too focused on its farming roots and does not place enough importance on the beach as an asset. Millions of dollars are brought to the area by tourists on day trips, campers at trailer parks and cottagers who call this their second home (Economic Impact of Tourism Report, 5).
The residents also contribute through exorbitant taxes in the recently revised – and much more expensive - “lakefront” category (even though a few years ago, those same properties were less expensive “lakeview” lots). There is a stunning piece of rhetoric on the township’s website (www.huronkinloss.com/en/news/boiler-beach-road-shoreline-restoration-partnership.aspx), showing residents how ugly the Kincardine rock dump solution is, and sharing how the township has partnered with the Lake Huron Coastal Centre and the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority to plant seedlings for “a natural buffer to protect properties and vehicles from the elements.”
There is no doubt it is prettier, but if huge birch trees, cedars and maples fell like dominoes, what chance at success do these tiny saplings have?
The sustainable answer must be a combination of the two strategies. Many municipalities have created solid infrastructure to keep waves and rising waters back from beaches and roads, while also building stone steps, accessible ramps, and beautiful tiered gardens to provide a long-term solution for the natural environment and the plants, animals and people who live in it.
The questions is, “Will our current local councillors be brave enough to propose spending the money now to benefit everyone in the future?”
Huron-Kinloss planted a few tiny saplings (left) to stop erosion (pen used for perspective), but most died within a few days; volunteers planted many in the middle of the well-used picnic areas and trails and they were trampled by walkers and bikers; the rest were never maintained - no water or fertilizer - most of them dried up and died; a hearty few (like this 10-inch-tall cedar) remain. Centre photo shows another slightly larger sapling (13 inches tall); at right, a sign offers information about the project; photos by J. Rutledge
Kincardine’s solution was to cover everything with giant sharp rocks – keep the water away and keep the people away
People in this neighbourhood, along Goderich Street, Kincardine, used to enjoy a short jaunt down to the water
Other municipalities have found creative solutions to stop erosion and make the waterfront accessible to their citizens
This is a cool idea – natural breakwalls close to shore create mini sheltered beach areas
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