By Geoff Peach, Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation
Sauble Beach,on the eastern shores of Lake Huron,at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, is a headland-bay dune system that extends about ten kilometers between its headlands. A recent popular magazine characterized the beach as one of Canada’s top ten beaches. It’s a marvelous beach, backed by sand dunes and rare vegetation.
Local residents were becoming concerned in recent years about the deterioration of the dunes because of the high demands and stress placed on this ecosystem from the thousands of beachgoers that arrive each summer. This group of citizens formed a stewardship group called “Friends of Sauble Beach” (FSB). FSB have been very active in the pursuit of dune conservation, including petitioning the Town of South Bruce Peninsula Council, preparing funding proposals for management planning projects and hiring summer staff to assist in data collection.The remarkable enthusiasm of FSB made the town council highly receptive to learning about dune systems and they have been keen to share that knowledge amongst the broader community.
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation was hired in 2003 by the FSB to develop a long-term management strategy aimed at conserving the dunes. The Centre’s approach included conducting a preliminary ecological survey of the dune system, which inventoried the physical and biological components of the dunes, as well as noting the human impacts to their form and function. With the information from this survey, management approaches were identified. Equally important, this information helped to communicate the characteristics and importance of the dunes to residents, municipal staff and decision makers. Education was a fundamental component of the management planning exercise, and was perhaps more important to the success of the dune conservation initiative than any of the interventions that would be implemented in the dunes at Sauble Beach.
Communicating basic coastal geomorphology and plant sciences principles to the public was considered important to the objective of modifying attitudes and behaviour towards the dune system. It was the belief that people are more inclined to accept a stewardship role if they understand why a change is important. Science provided a useful tool in helping people to understand natural systems at Sauble Beach, how these systems can be altered through uncontrolled human interaction, and why it is important to protect the dune system.
The management plan, completed in 2004, provided FSB with management priorities, and practical methods for conserving Sauble’s dunes. FSB took that document and petitioned the town council to become involved in the conservation process, since the beach was considered to be under municipal jurisdiction for management purposes.The town council, of course,wanted to know how much implementing the conservation plan was going to cost, so they commissioned the development of a costing study, which would be prepared by the Coastal Centre and a local consultant. Within six months of having the management plan, FSB had managed to cobble together nearly $100,000 in funding, including grants from federal, provincial and municipal sources.
The past several months have seen the installation of boardwalks, placement of conservations signs, and development of public educational material. FSB have been active in developing a field guide,and other public awareness literature. But perhaps one of their most inspiring achievements has been in working with the local elementary school to involve students in developing a dune brochure called “Everything Kids Should Know about Dunes” created by the Grade 3-4 class at Amabel Sauble Community School. Written and illustrated by the students, it’s a persuasive education piece that has value in educating both kids and adults.
FSB continues to champion the cause of dune conservation at Sauble Beach with impressive accomplishments. They have become local grassroots leaders in dune conservation in Ontario. FSB set a good example for any grassroots organization wishing to make a positive change in conserving our coastal heritage, and making it happen.
For more information:
Geoff Peach, Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation
P.O. Box 178, Blyth, Ontario N0M 1H0
PH: (519) 523-4478 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org