When something is not fun, the colloquial expression, “It was no day at the beach” comes to mind. Similar to “it was no picnic” or “not exactly a walk in the park” it denotes a situation which may be difficult to deal with – which is exactly what I discovered the first time I went to the beach this summer.
I had not been earlier because of the kitchen reno and the hot/humid/rainy weather. Although I can’t sit in the sun anymore I try and go at least a couple of times a year to take pictures and spend a relaxing afternoon with a book, but as it’s some distance for me, there never seemed to be a good day to pack up the beach stuff. We’re lucky we have beautiful beaches here and very blue water, but the truth is we don’t take advantage of them as often as we should.
Finally one day when I was running errands in town, (there always seems to be time for errands), I took a detour – as it was such a nice sunny bright-blue-sky- with-a-breeze day, it was a shame to waste it. I thought I would sit in the car and enjoy a coffee and snack and watch the sailboats for awhile.
What the heck happened to the beach?
It seemed to have disappeared. My usual spot, with the tree I usually sat under, consisted of a mere few feet of shoreline.
As the waterline was almost up to it’s roots, my beach blanket would have been swamped.
Before, you could walk out past the end of the groyne and still be in waist high water.
Now, the groynes were buried under water and considerably shorter.
At least half of the stretch of sand was missing, although it was better at the other end.
There is still a strip of sand in front of the parking lot, where they have placed boulders to prevent people from driving on the beach, but the beach down below has eroded considerably.
They have made some effort the past few years to protect the remaining sand by growing dune grass, but it was still a shock to see how much had washed away.
The lake levels are about a foot higher than they normally are and beaches all along the Great Lakes basin have experienced erosion and flooding this year. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the state of our beach, as driving down river earlier in the summer I noticed the same thing with the river level. Some of the boat ramps were closed because the river water had come up over the breakwall and flooded the parking lots.
And some docks were under or near level with the water. If I had expensive river or lakefront property I would be worried – another foot and the dock will just disappear.
The five interconnected Great Lakes make up the largest body of fresh water in the world. Although they say their water levels rise and fall in a cyclic fashion according to the prevailing weather patterns, I have never seen the water so high here. About ten years ago we were coping with the opposite – low levels exposing beaches and shipwrecks offshore which had never been seen before. It seems it has become a world of weather extremes. Although most of the problems with high levels and flooding in the Great Lakes can be attributed to the excessive rainfall this year, it does make you worry about global warming and the polar ice caps melting. Here’s a link to an article from The Weather Channel with more information on potential causes.
No matter what you may think about climate change, this sad sight, coupled with our brutally cold winters of late, and our prolonged rainy springs and hot humid summers, with all the torrential downpours and violent storms everywhere – it does make you wonder – are we ruining our planet?
If things continue beaches may become a thing of the past, a relic portrayed in paintings and photographs.
And life-guarding will become an obsolete occupation.
Perhaps it is not too late to take action?
Postscript: The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation has been advertising for “Coast Watchers”. These community volunteers help the Goderich-based centre monitor conditions along the Lake Huron shoreline and collect scientific data for a long term monitoring program. Last year they had 130 applicants, whose job it is to monitor a specific stretch of coast line once a week, from May to October, and record data such as wave height, temperature and wind speed. Another general observation group monitors for algae bloom, significant garbage wash-ups or spills, and rare birds or a species at risk. The Goderich-based centre was formed two decades ago with the goals of protecting and restoring Lake Huron’s coastal environment and promoting a healthy coastal ecosystem. It’s volunteer Coast Watchers Citizen Science Monitoring Program has been running for approximately 15 years. Training sessions are held every April.
Sounds like a great idea. Why be a weather watcher, when you could be a coastal watcher!
Postscript: Have you noticed any signs of climate change in your corner of the world?