Sand Loss at Sauble Beach - pebbles appearing

posted Jul 26, 2018, 7:56 AM by FSB Information

Friends' group urges South Bruce Peninsula to take action to stop loss of sand at Sauble 

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, July 5, 2018 5:37:09 EDT PM

This photo, supplied by Friends of Sauble Beach, shows the pebbles that now line the shoreline at the popular Lake Huron beach.






Friends of Sauble Beach is calling on South Bruce Peninsula to take immediate action to help stop what it calls an alarming loss of sand on the popular Lake Huron beach.

The volunteer group has written to town officials, urging them to seek permission from the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry to reinstall protective fencing – removed by the municipality last fall – in strategic locations to help prevent sand from blowing off the beach and onto Lakeshore Boulevard.

“We want to save the beach,” group spokesman John Strachan said in an interview.

“You walk along the beach and you see all the gravel coming up. That was never here until they started grooming. And this is what's underneath the sand that we're losing.”

South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson said while she's also concerned about the loss of sand, the town cannot reinstall the sand fencing at this time because its hands are tied by the MNRF.

“When we removed that sand fencing, our plan was to replace it as soon as possible with the idea that we would go back to the original plan, which was to remove it every couple of years, feather the sand back down onto the beach and then replant that fence,” she said Thursday.

“But the MNRF slapped us with a stop order and litigation so we really had no choice but to grind to a halt.”

Jackson said the pebbles along the shoreline are not a sign of over-grooming or loss of sand, as the Friends' group claims. Instead, they are the result of a deposit of stones between sandbars at the south end of the beach that have washed ashore, she said.

The Friends of Sauble Beach, which formed in 2000, purchased and installed fencing west of the dunes in 2007 in areas where sand had historically blown up and over the dunes or off the beach via, for example, the paths to Lakeshore Boulevard.

Jackson said the fencing had not been replaced in years and parts of it had become a hazard to beach-goers.

Before the town could reinstall new fencing this spring, Jackson said the MNRF charged the town under the Endangered Species Act in connection to its beach maintenance work in April 2017.

That's when the town had used heavy equipment to cultivate the town-owned beach between the water's edge and 30 feet west of the dunes, as per its beach maintenance policy. Jackson said north Sauble Beach had become overgrown with weeds, roots and other vegetation, so the work was necessary.

The charge alleged the town had violated the section of the act that prohibits people from damaging or destroying the habitat of an endangered or threatened species. The piping plover was mentioned in the charge.

The ministry also issued a stop order against any further town-sanctioned beach maintenance this spring “to ensure ongoing protection of the piping plover,” which has been nesting annually at Sauble since 2007.

The town received a summons to appear in court June 23.

Jackson said the MNRF successfully requested a delay in proceeding with their case.

Recently, Jackson said the MNRF agreed, in writing, to an amendment to the stop order that allows the town to groom the beach between 4th and 10th streets, which is more than 500 metres away from any plover nests. The town did that work ahead of the Canada Day long weekend.

Jackson said South Bruce Peninsula will not consider replacing the sand fences until the town and MNRF agree to a comprehensive beach management plan, which includes rules for beach raking and the fencing.

She said the town wants to ensure, before it reinstalls the fencing, that the MNRF will no longer consider the sand that accumulates on the fences as “foredunes.”

The classification would prohibit the town from grooming the sand within 30 feet of the fences, she said, which would mean significant sections of beach could not be maintained.

“Until we get this ironed out with the MNRF and come to a very clear understanding that the sand captured by the sand fencing will never be considered a foredune, we will have to wait on the installation of that fencing,” she said.

“Hopefully we can come to a beach management agreement very soon. It's something we've been after for quite some time.”

But Strachan said it could take months or possibly years for the two sides to agree to a beach management plan.

The group is concerned about how much sand will be lost in the meantime.

It wants the town to ask the MNRF to approve another amendment to its stop order to allow the fencing to be reinstalled.

Strachan said strong northwest winds this winter and spring, along with the town's grooming work, destruction of foredunes and lack of protective fencing has resulted in large amounts of sand blowing off the beach, over the dunes and onto Lakeshore Boulevard and adjoining properties.

“Everyday it seems to be getting worse. There's more of the gravel,” he said.

The gravel used to be under the sand, he said, but is now visible.

“If we can get the fencing up, then at least we can stem it,” he said, referring to the loss of sand.

The Friends' group has contacted MNRF officials and submitted sand-fencing plans, he said, which were developed by a group of beach scientists.

It believes the ministry will not oppose a town request to re-fence the beach, he said.

“Sand fencing, installed immediately, will help to save our beautiful sandy beach and keep it from turning into a pebble and rock beach, much the same as many other Lake Huron shorelines,” says the group's letter to the town.


posted Jul 22, 2018, 2:04 PM by FSB Information   [ updated Jul 26, 2018, 7:54 AM ]

Annual Beach Cleanup 2018

posted Jul 22, 2018, 1:53 PM by FSB Information

Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation letter re grooming @ Sauble

posted Apr 11, 2018, 10:59 AM by FSB Information

The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation
Her Worship Janice Jackson and Council Town of South Bruce Peninsula 315 George Street, P.O. Box 310 Wiarton, ON N0H 2T0
April 11, 2018
Dear Madam and Council, 
Our sandy beaches are a great place for recreation and relaxation, providing high value to communities and the local economy. With greater demand for beaches comes greater stress on these fragile ecosystems. In order to make sound decisions in managing our beaches, it is critical that we understand how they function. Beaches are part of a system that includes the beach we sit, walk or run on, along with the sand dune, the sandy lakebed, and sand bars. It all operates together as a system; if we damage one part of this system, we prevent it from functioning properly overall. Indiscriminate use of dunes can destroy thousands of years of geologic processes in a very short period of time. 
Water levels on Lake Huron are always changing, and over the long-term we can see the lake levels fluctuate within a range of about 2 vertical metres between highs and lows. We are currently experiencing high water levels, which can make things more difficult, with reduced space for human use. During low lake levels, dune vegetation will migrate lakeward through its underground root systems, colonizing areas of the upper beach. Marram grass is one of the primary dune species that helps to anchor sand and build the dune. Without this dune vegetation, sand drifting and sand loss from the beach would be a serious problem. This can result in a wet beach with more coarse sand, which is much less attractive to tourists and can harbour E. coli. Wet beaches can also encourage the growth of wetland-type plants not usually found in a beach environment. Without dunes, our beautiful sandy beaches would erode away. During high lake levels sand dunes act as a reservoir of sand that the lake ‘borrows’, building offshore sand bars. Along many parts of the Lake Huron coastline, beaches and dunes are considered geologic relics—sand deposits which were deposited centuries ago when the coastal geologic conditions were much different than today. These sand beaches should be considered a non-renewable resource that must be conserved. This means that understanding natural coastal processes is essential, ensuring that we are not causing our beaches to degrade over time. 
It has become especially apparent recently that there are some coastal communities, including Sauble Beach, who thrive on tourism that use raking methods to groom and clean their beaches of garbage. As a scientific-based environmental agency with over 20-years-experience in coastal management along Lake Huron, it is the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation’s opinion that beach management practices that include mechanized grooming of the beach can be destructive and have long-range implications for the sustainability of the beach-dune system. 
The practice of beach grooming can have long-term negative effects on beach erosion and shore ecology. The process of beach grooming, which has been done at a number of beaches for aesthetic purposes, can make erosion worse, in that sand is lost from the dune system, interrupting the beach-dune cycle. Sand blown beyond the foredune (or ’first dune’) represents a permanent loss to the system. Raking has three key negative consequences:  1. Wet sand is drawn up and aerated, contributing to drying out of the sand and making the fine sands more vulnerable to wind erosion. High winds can transport fine sands a considerable distance inland, leaving coarse sands behind.  2. Raking can destroy new dune vegetation establishing at the leading edge of the dune. Although seedlings in this ’embryo’ dune often become buried by wind-blown sand, they will usually grow through the new sand layer and continue to stabilize the area. Dune grasses are not “weeds” or “invasive” and are critical to a healthy functioning beach.  3. The beach ecosystem is a habitat and feeding ground for a mosaic of wildlife, including shorebirds, invertebrates, reptiles, terrestrial insects and vegetation. Beach raking removes organic debris that washes up on the beach forming a “strand line”. This organic detritus provides food for shorebirds, and releases valuable nutrients into the beach substrate. These nutrients, in turn, are used by beach plants. 
Excessive debris such as large logs and garbage can be removed from the beach, however conducting regular scheduled raking produces a sterile beach environment. Aside from the ecological effects of raking, there are compelling economic reasons for
reconsidering the practice of beach raking. Healthy dunes provide free shore protection against flooding and windblown sand, and losses of sand from the beach-dune system represent a loss to this protective capacity during storm events. The value of a beach dune system simply as shore protection has been estimated at about $3,000 per linear metre. Sand dunes also act as a natural water filter, and reduce maintenance costs by preventing sand drifting.
The dunes at Sauble Beach have an impressive biological diversity, with a number of globally and provincially rare species, such as the Pitcher’s Thistle. Extremely rare Species at Risk, such as the Piping Plover, rely on these sensitive environments as primary breeding, nesting and feeding habitat, making the need for protection and rehabilitation of beach and dune environments critical for the survival of the species. It is important to understand that shorebirds like the Piping Plover rely on a fully functioning healthy beach and dune ecosystem, which includes open sand, vegetative dune cover, and a strand line for foraging. 
Many Lake Huron jurisdictions with significant public beach use have not embarked on a raking program (e.g. Pinery Park), or have strict guidelines around the practice (e.g. Huron-Kinloss). A number of American jurisdictions (e.g. Palm Beach County, Florida) have reevaluated their raking programs, based on their environmental impacts, and have radically scaled back their programs. It is recommended that beach managers consider implementing a beach cleaning program that is more environmentally appropriate. Large raking machines in current use could be replaced by beach clean-up staff picking up litter manually. Other alternatives could include working with local groups to develop an “Adopt-a-beach” program where volunteers look after a section of the waterfront. Regularly scheduled beach grooming is indiscriminate, allowing for unnecessary raking to occur. There may be occasions when mechanical raking is considered unavoidable (e.g. excessive debris washing up on the beach, garbage accumulated after a holiday weekend), but generally it is unnecessary and can be harmful to the beach. Municipalities should review what conditions constitute a need for raking and develop clear guidelines. Some of the alternatives to regular grooming that would help to protect beach ecology include: no grooming; hand grooming; seasonal, zonal or rotational grooming, and; threshold grooming, or strand line removal beyond a certain density or height. 
The notion of a “pristine” or “clean” beach, clear of everything but sand, is one that fails to recognize the life that forms, and relies on, the beach ecosystem. Beaches are far from lifeless. The needs of tourism and beach visitors can be mitigated to benefit the coastal environment with little to no impact to the economic wellbeing of the community. Kincardine Main Beach has been a shining example that beach conservation and tourism are not mutually exclusive, and that dunes and the presence of dune vegetation on a well-managed shoreline can improve the visitor experience.
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation developed a beach management plan for Sauble Beach in 2004 which can be viewed at We encourage the Town of South Bruce Peninsula to revisit this plan when developing an updated beach management strategy, and we would like to offer our support in developing a scientifically-sound plan that strives to accommodate the needs of the beach-dune system while maintaining the beach for recreation and tourism. Stewardship efforts will not only ensure a healthy beach ecosystem and allow Species at Risk to thrive, but will help improve the waterfront-based economy of Sauble Beach. 
Erinn Lawrie, Executive Director Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation
Cc:    Bill Walker, MPP Tracy Allison, Resources Management Supervisor, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Kathy Strachan, Chair Friends of Sauble Beach Kate McLaren, President, Owen Sound Field Naturalists Sonya Skinner, CAO Grey Sauble Conservation Caroline Schultz, Executive Director, Ontario Nature Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence Laura Bowman, Ecojustice
76 Courthouse Square Goderich, Ontario, Canada N7A 1M6

Cultivated beach deposits sand on Lakeshore Blvd. lawn for the first time in over a decade.

posted Apr 10, 2018, 9:31 AM by FSB Information   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 7:32 PM ]

FSB letter to Minister of MNRF

posted Mar 27, 2018, 6:41 PM by FSB Information   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 8:27 PM ]

Friends of Sauble Beach

Sauble Beach, ON   N0H 2G0

March 26, 2018



Dear Minister Des Rosiers, MNRF:


Re:  Sauble Beach Bulldozing


What has Mayor Jackson done to our beach?

In one fell swoop, she has undone all of the work that Friends of Sauble Beach (FSB) , along with volunteers who spent thousands of hours over the last 18 years, have done to help preserve the sands and dune ecosystems that have arguably made Sauble Beach one of the  greatest fresh water shorelines in the world.

Beach raking and grooming is an ongoing issue at Sauble Beach. For many years it has been a topic of “conversation” between FSB, the MNRF and several town councils. Last year the mayor bulldozed and cultivated most of the beach. It seems that she has totally disregarded the advice of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) as well as a very large number of naturalists and directions set out by scientists who had been hired by FSB to create a responsible beach management plan for the TSBP (see footnote 1 below): she violated the Endangered species act by destroying the Piping Plover habitat as outlined in the Endangered Species Act. She has openly defied the MNRF and challenged them to take her to court; challenged the MNRF to fine her up to a million dollars for violating the act as she continued to rip out the foredunes and remove all of the sand fencing that had been designed to successfully trap and save the blowing sands over the last 18 years. The new foredune traps the sand before it progresses to the mature dune, thereby stopping the original dunes from growing higher. Almost all of the world’s most famous, expensive, and popular beaches control sand erosion with the same sand fencing and vegetation.

 In the fall of 2017 the beach was bulldozed in an area the MNRF states must be left in its natural state for the Plover habitat, including the strand line.  In 2015 the current council modified the Dynamic Beach By-law by removing the protection for the strand line, which prevented raking 10 meters from the water’s edge. The mayor justifies all of this carnage in the name of tourism. We need only to go back to 2015 to dispute the mayor’s desire to attract tourists to Sauble Beach. The “Blue Flag” is arguably the world’s most powerful symbol of beach excellence. It draws tourists seeking clean and natural beaches that adhere to Blue Flag standards.  The Blue Flag is an internationally recognized symbol of a clean natural beach that attracts tens of thousands of tourists.  Many tourists come specifically to see the natural dune system and the piping plovers. The mayor had been forewarned that changing the grooming practices and town raking bylaws could possibly lead to the removal of our Blue Flag status. The mayor, in similar defiance of rules and regulations, ignored the warning and, along with some of her council, changed the raking policies that had been set out by previous councils. This act of defiance resulted in the loss of our Blue Flag status. Environmental Defence ordered the Town of South Bruce Peninsula to remove the Blue Flag and send it back to them.

 The bottom line is that there are residents who desire a pristinely groomed beach and residents who prefer a natural beach.  We need compromise to keep everyone happy.  We understand and have always supported minimal raking, away from the dune grasses (which trap blowing sand) and the strand line on the shore.  Aggressive raking and bulldozing contributes to loss of sand through wind erosion, indiscriminately spreading the invasive species phragmites and loss of Plover habitat.  The result is an extremely 'wet beach' which breeds harmful bacteria. Moreover, when the protected Piping Plover is put into the equation, two senior levels of government bring significant legislation that make compromise even more difficult.  FSB will never recommend breaking the law and/or support cleaning activities that will compromise the integrity of the dunes. We recommend that sand fencing be reinstalled to start the rehabilitation process again.

 We believe that our Council and all residents of the TSBP are committed to what they sincerely believe are the best interests of Sauble Beach.  FSB volunteer members are an important part of our tax paying residential community.  We all love our world class beach and hope that it continues to be world class for generations to come. Once again, we must come to some kind of compromise.  Bulldozing is not any kind of compromise.  For eighteen years Friends of Sauble Beach volunteers have worked diligently towards making Sauble Beach the wonderful natural playground that is appreciated by all who come here to visit and all those who live here. We are dedicated to help bring about this compromise and will continue to stay true to our mission.


On behalf of the executive of Friends of Sauble Beach,


Kathy Strachan, Chair Friends of Sauble Beach



cc: Bill Walker, MPP

     Tracy Allison, Resources Mgmt Supervisor, Owen Sound Office – MNRF

     Erinn Lawrie, Executive Director, Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation

     Kate McLaren, President, Owen Sound Field Naturalists

     Sonya Skinner, CAO Grey Sauble Conservation

     Anne Bell, Director of Conservation & Education, Ontario Nature

     Kelsey Scarfone, Blue Flag, Environmental Defence




1)     Copy the following link into your web browser to see the two Sauble Beach Mgmt plans:


Field naturalists issue "call to action" to oppose plan to till and rake Sauble Beach

posted Mar 15, 2018, 11:58 AM by FSB Information   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 8:33 PM ]

Field naturalists issue "call to action" to oppose plan to till and rake Sauble Beach

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, March 15, 2018 10:35:26 EDT AM

Sauble Beach after the town used a bulldozer to remove thick vegetation at north end of beach in August. Photo was shared by South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson on her Facebook page.

Sauble Beach after the town used a bulldozer to remove thick vegetation at north end of beach in August. Photo was shared by South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson on her Facebook page.

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The Owen Sound Field Naturalists has issued an “urgent” call to action in response to the mayor of South Bruce Peninsula's assertion that the town will till and rake Sauble Beach this spring before the endangered piping plovers return.

The 300-member group is asking people to e-mail the municipality's council members in an effort to prevent the work, which it says would put the tiny shorebirds and long-term health of the Lake Huron beach in peril.

People are being asked to copy their e-mails to provincial officials, including those at the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF) and all the way up to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“Basically, it's whoever you can think of that might finally influence this mayor and council to do the right thing. I honestly don't know what else we can do other than stand in front of bulldozers and it may come to that,” Kate McLaren, president of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists' board of directors, said in an interview Wednesday.

“We have a lot of concerned people that are just enraged by this attitude. And especially given all of the work that's gone into plover habitat to try to keep them safe.”

Tilling the beach, she said, will remove and kill grasses and sedges that are part of dune ecology and help to stabilize the dunes and prevent erosion. The vegetation provides habitat for plovers, she said, which require grass cover to, among other things, hide from predators.

Mayor Janice Jackson told The Sun Times late last month that the town will “absolutely” be tilling the beach this spring, despite the MNRF advising against it.

The plan, she said, is to cultivate the town-owned portion of Sauble between the water's edge and 30 feet west of the historic dunes, as per the town's beach maintenance policy, after the ground thaws but before the plovers arrive.

Asked Wednesday about the campaign by the field naturalists group, Jackson said the town is “certainly not going to alter our position” regarding tilling the beach.

She said regular beach maintenance is required to prevent the sand from becoming overgrown with weeds and other vegetation. Not keeping the sand “clean,” she said, harms tourism and, in turn, Sauble Beach's economy as tourism is its top industry. It also negatively impacts residents' enjoyment of their beach, she added.

She said the town has done plenty of research that proves tilling the beach actually benefits the plovers, which she said prefer a clean shoreline to nest.

Jackson said she heard from multiple people last year that were concerned about the condition of Sauble Beach. The town undertook a “considerable amount of work” in August to “reclaim the beach,” she said, but the vegetation will quickly return this spring if the root systems under the sand are not removed.

She said she wants the town and MNRF to come to an agreement, in writing, that says South Bruce Peninsula can cultivate the beach before the plovers arrive and after they leave and rake the sand – a safe distance from any plover nests – throughout the summer.

But, so far, Jackson said the agency has refused to sit down and discuss such an agreement with the town.

However, she said she feels more encouraged now that an agreement can be reached after the town received a letter last week from the ministry in which Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Des Rosiers says she has instructed her staff to set up a meeting with the town to try to resolve the issue.

"That's what we've been asking for all along. We have had the door continually shut on us by the local office," she said.

MNRF spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski has told The Sun Times that spring raking at Sauble Beach is not advised. The ban, she said, is in place to maintain important habitat features for the plovers, including natural material on the beach.

The MNRF launched an investigation into a complaint last year regarding the disruption of piping plover habitat at Sauble Beach. Jackson has said the ministry threatened to fine the town up to $300,000 for its decision to till the sand in early April before the plovers arrived.

McLaren said the MNRF should have the power to “step in” and prevent the town from tilling the beach this spring.

“Really the pressure, I think, has to come to bear on the minister of natural resources and our local ministry office,” she said.

Article from Wiarton Echo on Mayor's planned beach raking this spring

posted Mar 5, 2018, 4:32 PM by FSB Information

South Bruce Peninsula will “absolutely” be tilling Sauble Beach this spring before the endangered piping plovers return, despite the province advising against it, says Mayor Janice Jackson.

Not even the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry telling the town last year that they could be fined because of similar work will stop them, she said.

“There's no way that this town, after spending that much in time and effort and finances to rehabilitate the beach in August, that we're going to allow it to go back to that condition within six weeks by ignoring the spring conditions of the beach. That won't happen,” Jackson said Monday in an interview.

South Bruce Peninsula, she said, will be sending a letter this week to notify the MNRF of their plan to cultivate the town-owned portion of Sauble, between the water's edge and 30 feet west of the historic dunes, as outlined in the town's beach maintenance policy.

The work will be done as soon as possible after the snow melts but before the first plovers arrive, which usually happens in mid- to late April.

MNRF spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said the ministry has been providing the town with “consistent guidance and advice” to help them comply with the Endangered Species Act since the plovers returned to Sauble after a 30-year absence in 2007.

The MNRF has informed the town, she said, that spring raking is not advised without authorization under the ESA.

“Spring raking applies to the time when the beach is clear of winter snow and ice and continues until the birds have established nests for the season,” she said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“This ban is in place to maintain important habitat features. Winter/spring storms will have replenished the natural material on the beach that was lost during the previous late season’s raking activities.”

Asked about the ministry's comments, Jackson said this is the first time she has heard about the option to seek authorization under the ESA for spring raking.

“We would have applied years ago had they ever advised us to do so,” she said. “If we were turned down, we would have taken further action.”

Jackson said cultivating the beach in the spring is too important to not go ahead.

“They can threaten us with a second fine if they care to, although they've never even levied a first one. The bottom line is, our beach is an economic driver for our town and they're harming the community by not letting us maintain the beach,” she said.

Jackson said Sauble Beach was not tilled or raked from 2010 to 2014.

After the municipal election, she said the town and MNRF came to a verbal agreement to allow South Bruce Peninsula to till the beach before the piping plovers arrive at Sauble to nest and after the chicks fledge in mid-August, but not between those times.

But she said the MNRF refused to put it in writing.

She said the town tilled the sand, as per the agreement, in both 2015 and 2016. No concerns were expressed by the MNRF.

Then, last year, Jackson said the ministry threatened to fine the town up to $300,000 for its decision to till the sand in early April before the plovers arrived.

The MNRF, at the time, would only say it was investigating a complaint regarding the disruption of piping plover habitat at Sauble Beach, but no fines had been issued.

In early July, Jackson took to Facebook to voice her frustration with the condition of Sauble Beach, saying the rain that spring had caused the weeds in the sand to grow rapidly and wiped out all of town's maintenance efforts from April.

She told The Sun Times that she felt the MNRF had “taken over our beach” by not allowing the town to clean it because of the presence of piping plovers.

After the plovers left, Jackson said South Bruce Peninsula spent about $10,000 to cultivate the sand and remove most of the vegetation that was not on or near the dunes.

In a Facebook post last week, Jackson urged South Bruce Peninsula residents, business owners and Sauble Beach visitors to write to the MNRF to show their support for the town's efforts to rehabilitate and maintain the beach.

“As we approach springtime at Sauble, rehabilitation of the beach must continue,” it says.

“There was a considerable amount of work undertaken to reclaim the beach last summer however the root systems are still beneath the sand and if they're not removed this spring, the vegetation will quickly return.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry still believes substantial vegetation is required to support the plovers but time and again, a clean sandy beach has proven to be their true attraction.”

She said the ministry has only heard from people opposed to the town's beach-maintenance activities and it's time “for the other side of the debate to be clearly heard.”

She said hundreds of people have written to the ministry to voice their support since she posted her plea on Facebook.

Cleaning the beach is a controversial topic, with some people saying raking ruins important beach habitat.

Jackson said she believes at least 95 per cent of Sauble Beach residents support the town's efforts to clean the beach.

She said she wants the town and MNRF to come to an agreement, in writing, that says South Bruce Peninsula can cultivate the beach before the plovers arrive and after they leave and rake the sand – a safe distance from any plover nests – throughout the summer.

Kowalski said as an endangered species, people cannot kill, harm or harass piping plovers or damage or destroy their habitat, as outlined in the Endangered Species Act.

“In circumstances where it is not possible to avoid adverse impacts to species at risk or their habitat, proponents may seek an authorization, or permit, under the ESA that may allow an activity to take place.”

Along with advising the town against spring raking, the MNRF has also said that the town should avoid raking or tilling in piping plover habitat – within a 500-metre radius around the nest and from the water’s edge to the back of the dune – while the shorebirds are present.

Only light raking outside the habitat can be undertaken, she said. That means raking that does not remove vegetation or impact natural features like dunes or hummocks.

Jackson said the town has never breached the Endangered Species Act.

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Complaint halts beach bulldozer work at Sauble

posted Aug 24, 2017, 8:09 PM by FSB Information   [ updated Aug 24, 2017, 8:16 PM ]

Complaint halts beach bulldozer work at Sauble

By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, August 24, 2017 8:11:13 EDT PM

Sauble Beach after the town used a bulldozer to remove thick vegetation at north end of beach. Photo was shared by South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson on her Facebook page Thursday. (Used with permission)

Sauble Beach after the town used a bulldozer to remove thick vegetation at north end of beach. Photo was shared by South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson on her Facebook page Thursday. (Used with permission)

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SAUBLE BEACH - Mayor Janice Jackson posted pictures on her Facebook page Thursday which show the dramatic difference a bulldozer made at clearing the north end of Sauble Beach of vegetation Wednesday.

But the work to remove bushes and other thick vegetation from the north end of the beach to 6th Street attracted the concern of members of the Friends of Sauble Beach.

At day's end Wednesday, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority informed the town it needed a permit to do the work and asked for work to halt until a meeting could be arranged Monday with a conservation authority official who is away this week, Jackson said.

“But we've never taken out a permit on the beach, ever,” the mayor said in an interview Thursday. Indeed the vegetation hasn't been so thick before either, she said.

“We've never had to do this kind of work. What we've always done is tilled the beach and raked the beach. But the condition of the beach today is far beyond simply tilling,” Jackson said.

“It's the first time we went in with a bulldozer and we took out all of the bushes and the invasive weeds. We took everything out of the north end. And I think that's what alarmed people. Because it was a large piece of equipment.”

Conservation authority spokeswoman Krista McKee said the conservation authority learned of the work through a private Facebook post by an individual and by contact from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

A Friends of Sauble Beach member reported the bulldozer work, said John Strachan, the volunteer organization's director of dune management. He would have reported it himself had the member not done so because in his view, the mayor's gone too far, he said in an interview.

“She tore all the dunes down around at the walkway at Sauble Falls Road,” Strachan said. “Plus she was digging into the foredunes. When you dig away the foredunes (small dunes closer to the middle of the beach), all the sand blows up into the big, tall dune, and it goes off into the cottages as well.”

Strachan said the area of work was levelled by the bulldozer and was marked out to include an area which included “in spots, part of the full dune.”

“This is all a non-renewable resource. When that sand blows away, there's no more sand coming,” Strachan said. He's happy the conservation authority stepped in.

Jackson said the town shared with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on Aug. 18 its plans to “rehabilitate” the beach to within about nine metres (30 feet) of the most easterly dunes, a distance that is contained in the town's beach maintenance policies. She said the ministry approved them.

MNRF confirmed Wednesday the ministry was advised of the town's planned beach maintenance and MNRF “provided advice on how their beach maintenance activities can comply with the ESA (Endangered Species Act).” The emailed response late in the day to The Sun Times didn't address whether the ministry has concerns in light of the work so far. It said the town and MNRF continue to work together.

Wednesday was the first day of work on the north beach. The bulldozer removed vegetation from north of 11th Street by the tennis courts to almost the northern tip of the beach at Grove's Point by day's end, Jackson said. She estimated 23 to 30.5 meters (75 to 100 feet) of beach was “lost to vegetation” before reclamation work began.

Plans call for the bulldozer to return to the beach to finish removing vegetation towards the tip of the beach, and also from the dunes to the middle section of the beach. The remaining work should take two more days, Jackson said.

She also said the municipality used a disc-bladed implement to cut into the sand to remove vegetation between 5th and 6th streets last week, on a privately owned section of beach with the owner's permission.

There is less vegetation on the beach the father south you go and so there remain some areas south from 6th to around 3rd or 4th street which need cleaning, though without the bulldozer, she said.

Jackson said she was “surprised and disappointed that they (conservation authority) are even looking permit fees to clean our own beach,” which said would cost $1,200. “I find that bizarre. I mean we pay them $184,000 a year as a mandatory fee.”

Jackson said she has no idea what conditions the permit would set out.

But McKee at the conservation authority said it has good relationships with its member municipalities and it never charges permit fees to them.

The permit is required because regulations dictate that shoreline work which involves moving more than 10 cubic metres of sand must be be reviewed first, McKee said.

She confirmed the conservation authority asked the municipality to stop but added it has no authority to force it to. She said she looks forward to town and conservation authority staff working together to move forward.

Cleaning the beach is controversial for some, particularly given the endangered plover has chosen to call Sauble Beach home, where it returned in 2007 after a 30-year absence.

The beach was “disced” in April, including in the areas of heavy vegetation at the northern tip, Jackson said. Cleaning there, Jackson suggested, is what prompted the first plovers to nest that far north on the beach in seven or eight years. Nests were established down to the volleyball courts farther south.

But heavy rains – there were 19 straight days of rain at the beach this summer, Jackson said – led to vegetation growing back vigourously.

The subsequent cleaning Wednesday took place after the last plovers left. 

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