South Bruce Peninsula has begun to rake and clean up the sand again at Sauble Beach.
Mayor Janice Jackson said the work – which will take place in the mornings before the beach gets busy – began Tuesday and is expected to wrap up Friday.
She said this is the first time the town has been able to till the beach since April; before the endangered piping plovers arrived for the season. The beach is now in such poor condition, she said, that it will cost the town about $1,000 a day, mostly to rent equipment, to disc, rake and haul away vegetation and debris from the beach.
“There’s virtually no beach left. It’s all covered in grasses and willow bushes. We have a problem with geese because of the vegetation. We’ve got snakes on the beach because of the vegetation,” Jackson said Wednesday in an interview.
“We have been hearing from our constituents and our visitors for the entire summer. I cannot tell you how many e-mails and phone calls I have received from people that are absolutely outraged. So we were committed to getting onto the beach at the very earliest possible time and taking that beach back.”
Jackson has expressed frustration this summer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for, according to her, not allowing the town to till and properly maintain any of the beach when the piping plovers are at Sauble.
The MNRF, she said, is threatening to fine the town up to $300,000 for tilling the beach in early April before the shorebirds arrived. In the past, Jackson said the MNRF had no problem with the early spring work.
Jackson said the town has a policy that says it will use a rototiller on the beach, when required, to control areas where grasses are growing on the beach surface and to within 30 feet of the west side of the historical dunes.
The policy says once the town is notified by the MNRF that the plovers have left for the season, the town will consult with the ministry prior to any raking or maintenance of the beach in order to preserve habitat areas.
Jackson said the town sent two letters to the MNRF advising them of the town’s intention to commence their “regular beach maintenance” once the plovers left for the season.
The ministry only got back to them Tuesday, she said, to say they planned on “corresponding with us at a later date.”
On Wednesday, in an e-mailed response to questions from The Sun Times, an MNRF spokesperson said the ministry is not concerned at this point about the current beach maintenance activities at Sauble Beach “because they are being conducted after all plovers have left the beach, are restricted to the mid-beach area (i.e. between the drift line and the base of the dunes) and are being conducted in a manner that avoids any natural features on the beach, such as dunes or hummocks; consistent with MNRF advice.”