Grass roots

Dune restoration takes place at Clark Lambros’ Beach Park

Camila Dul, a member of the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, shows how to properly plant native beach grass near Clark Lambros’ Beach Park. A GLCC crew and community volunteers took part in a dune restoration event on Friday, with one goal being to prevent erosion. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Most homeowners mow their grass. The Superior Watershed Partnership wants to add grass.

That’s native beach grass, though, and with long roots often reaching 4 to 6 feet deep, beach grass plays an important role in stabilizing coastal sand dunes and preventing erosion.

To add more beach grass at one popular spot along Lake Superior — Clark Lambros’ Beach Park — the SWP hosted a dune restoration volunteer day on Friday.

Emily Leach, program manager of the SWP’s Great Lakes Conservation Corps, led the event, which included GLCC members as well as area residents.

Preventing erosion was a main goal of Friday’s event.

“This year we have record-high lake levels, so this will really, really help,” Leach said.

In instructing the crew and volunteers, Leach asked them to pick up any trash they saw, considering Marquette’s stormwater drain system.

“Pretty much anything that you see in your yard or in the (road) ends up at the lake,” Leach said.

Time permitting, removing the invasive spotted knapweed was part of the day’s activities.

According to the SWP, less than 15% of the entire Lake Superior shoreline is made up of sand beach. Instead, the Superior coastline is composed mostly of sheer rock cliffs, bedrock outcroppings, large boulders, and pebble and cobble beaches.

Marquette does, however, have miles of public sand beach within the city limits, such as Clark Lambros’ Beach Park and South Beach.

However, with the recent increase in nature tourism, the SWP has documented a dramatic increase in coastal erosion including numerous sites where the native beach grass has been trampled or completely lost because of foot traffic.

Through a grant from Michigan Sea Grant, the SWP recently completed a coastal inventory for Marquette and documented over 120 erosion sites, including many new degraded beach grass sites.

Leach said the SWP plans restoration work on other spots along the Lake Superior coast: by the Superior Dome as well as Shiras Park at Picnic Rocks/McCarty’s Cove area.

Travel Marquette and Blackrocks Brewery sponsored Friday’s event.

GLCC member Camila Dul demonstrated the proper way to plant beach grass.

Water was to be placed in a hole before planting, which was done using a “quick slip” method.

“You place the root in the bottom, and right when you’re pushing the shovel forward, you want to slip that root in — and your hand will get buried a little bit — and you want to slip it in, and when you point the shovel up, you’ll dig in a little deeper,” Dul said.

Sand then was to be mounded up around the plant, with water “slapped” around it, she said.

Dul cautioned the planters to watch where they placed the buckets and shovels and to watch where they stepped so grass wouldn’t be trampled.

Leach suggested the grasses not be planted too far toward the lake considering the water levels, and instead be placed along the edge of the existing grass.

“We also don’t want to have sharp straight lines because those don’t look natural, so ‘wave’ it,” Leach said. “You can do a little wiggle with it to look pretty natural.”

Leach had a safety tip for the participants, which she discovered first hand: Be careful of getting sand in the eyes.

Dul’s safety tip also was eye related.

“Watch when you’re bending over too because that grass will poke you in the eye,” Dul said.

Juli Mickle of Houghton took part in the dune restoration work after noticing an email in her inbox.

“I’m going to be in Marquette anyway,” Mickle said. “Might as well take part.”

For more information, visit superiorwatersheds.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.