It was 1926 when the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association began to deal with the erosion of beaches nationwide. In this setting, the ASBPA started to work with the federal government to create legislation to share costs in protecting beaches from erosion. For more than 30 years, communities around the U.S. have been restoring their beaches. Today the projects are varied, focusing on management and protection of coastal areas. In many places, beach visitors are unaware of the restoration because it happens off-season.
There are several reasons why it is important to restore beaches. Beach restoration puts sand on the beach to make it higher and wider and can place dunes in the back beach area. Reasons for restoration, from the ASBPA, include:
- Storm protection — More sand between the waves and the inland infrastructure creates less erosion and damage to inland areas by flooding.
- Habitat restoration — Many species are at home on the sandy beaches as a place to live and nest.
- Recreation — The ASBPA said, “America’s beaches have twice as many visitors annually (more than 2 billion) as all of America’s national parks combined. The combined revenue from beaches and beach-related U.S. tourism is $1.3 trillion, with $124 billion in annual taxes going to all levels of government.”
The ASBPA gives awards for Best Restored Beaches. There were five beaches given the award in 2016, which were in the cities of Galveston, Texas; Highland Park, Ill.; Seabrook Island, S.C.; Redondo Beach,Calif.; and Top Sail, N.C. According to the ASBPA, restored beaches are judged on the following criteria:
- The economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community
- The short-and-long-term success of the restoration project
- The challenges each community overcame during the course of the project
There is wide-ranging membership in the ASBPA, including individuals, libraries, associations, state governments, corporations and universities. Kate Gooderham, co-managing director, stated, “A wonderful thing about the organization is that you can meet people from all areas. It provides a platform, connecting people from various entities. Conferences bring together local government people who can meet with top coastal engineers.” The 2016 conference had 190 presenters, including The Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Hawaii.
An important reason to restore a beach is that it restores the towns and areas of the country that have been hit by storms. Restored beaches are the first defense of a community against storm damage. This also affects the economy since good beaches raise the value of property and increase tourism. The environment benefits as well from restoration, giving nesting, feeding and resting sites for sea turtles, native birds and migratory birds. “We forget how important our coast is to all aspects of our lives,” said Gooderham.
Policy making on the part of the ASBPA enables local, state and federal governments to protect and maintain coastal lands. Policies come about through agenda actions and then legislation. “Some local governments get involved with the ASBPA because they want to understand and influence the federal process,” remarked Gooderham.
Rosewood Beach — located in Highland Park, Ill. — was named one of the five 2016 Best Restored Beaches by the ASBPA. Rosewood Beach is a facility of the Park District of Highland Park and is under the park district board. Rosewood’s $14.5 million renovation project was completed in June 2015 with much resident involvement, as well as, “strong partnerships and a clear vision to put together ecological best practices with forward- thinking recreational and educational programming to serve the community’s needs today and for future generations,” according to the Park District of Highland Park’s website.
The funds came from a variety of sources listed on the site: $400,000 — Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Fund through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources; $250,000 — Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; $200,000 — Illinois Public Museum Capital Grant, which is through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is slated to support lakefront education and an interpretive room with exhibit panels; and $48,393 — Illinois Coastal Grant Program for environmental education and outreach. Being in touch with the ASBPA could connect a city with resources such as these that are available to help restore a local beach.
The Rosewood preservation project first began with a broad park district Lakefront Master Plan in 2007. In 2011 as the more specific planning began, they formed a resident volunteer “Rosewood Task Force,” which met for over a year to come up with a design. They encouraged other residents to come to meetings. The main object was to “revitalize the community’s swimming beach and protect the delicate bluff, ravine and beachfront that were in danger of being swept away forever.” The task force presented the design to the community in May 2012, which was then approved by the park district board in August. Construction began in 2013, and the beach was open to the community in 2015.
Ongoing community input and engagement were very important throughout this whole process, a hallmark of planning by the Park District of Highland Park. A group, “Friends of Rosewood Beach,” came to include more than 300 families. Additionally, a 2009 Communitywide Attitude and Interest Survey showed that more than 50 percent of residents ranked the need for a lakefront swimming beach, ravine and bluff system as a top priority.
The renovation involved three separate coves — nature, swimming and recreational; expanded the beach with 65,000 cubic yards of sand; and added environmentally friendly educational and recreational buildings — all connected with a 1,500-foot-long boardwalk.
Among the environmental aspects, the park district’s website stated that “for the first time in 40 years, native lake fish made their way up the now accessible ravine stream to spawn … Nearly 20,000 native plants were planted by hand along the bluff and stream to prevent erosion and pollutants in the stream.” In addition, Rosewood Beach includes sustainable practices and infrastructure too numerous to mention here and is also free to the public and ADA accessible.
Finally, as predicted earlier, the local economy of Highland Park has benefited from a positive increase through more tourists enjoying the restored coastline.
To learn more about the Rosewood Beach Project, visit pdhp.org/rosewood-beach-project.