Volunteer Monitoring: Lake Huron “Coast Watchers”

Volunteer Monitoring: Lake Huron “Coast Watchers”

The quality of Lake Huron’s water and beaches has come into question in recent years. Beach postings, algal fouling, incidences of dead birds and fish washing onto beaches have contributed to the public’s perception that something is wrong with Lake Huron’s coastal environment. Government agencies have collected various segments of information related to environmental quality concerns along the coast, but the data collected has often been limited to snapshots in time, whereas local conditions can change quickly. A study prepared in 2004 by the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation indicated that Lake Huron’s near shore water quality has had a long history of bacterial and nutrient impairments, and that large gaps existed in the data that public agencies had been collecting in beach areas. At a water quality forum held at Goderich on Lake Huron in the summer of 2002, local residents endorsed the Coastal Centre’s proposal to establish a community- based monitoring program.

In 2005, the Coastal Centre will develop a volunteer monitoring and stewardship program called “Coast Watchers.” This is an initiative designed to engage the community to take an active part in both observing and helping to improve the quality of our near shore waters through individual actions. Through Coast Watchers, community volunteers are trained to observe the coast and record shoreline conditions; to initiate beach clean-ups where debris is both qualified and quantified; and where community workshops and information resources are organized, to help inform and educate people about best coastal stewardship practices. Through Coast Watchers, volunteers are the eyes and ears of the lakeshore. With volunteers collecting information methodically and consistently along the lakeshore, it will be possible to track conditions and trends.

CoastWatchers is an opportunity to involve coastal residents in observing the conditions of their local beaches and comparing conditions with other parts of the lake. The quality of the lakeshore is coming under increasing scrutiny by the public, and citizens are becoming interested in participating actively in improving its quality.We see Coast Watchers as a way for the community to become more vigilant about lakeshore quality and active in coastal stewardship.

contributed by Geoff Peach,
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation
(519) 523-4478 • geoff.peach@lakehuron.on.ca

 

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.