Do you love wriggling your toes in soft, warm sand? Do you believe in protecting the rare and fragile ecosystem that is Pinery Park? Then you’ll want to use a boardwalk on your way to the beach. And thanks to youth leader Amy Hall, there are more boardwalks than ever to choose from.
Last fall, the Foundation, through the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge, supported a project to build and deploy rolling boardwalks in the Park. Hall, who holds a degree in wildlife biology and conservation from Guelph University, leads the project. “Rolling boardwalks are a solution to our shoreline dilemma,” she explains. “For years we’ve been experiencing a lot of trampling from people moving across the dunes to the beach. We knew we had to reduce trampling to protect the rare dune ecosystem.”
Recently students from Wilfrid Laurier University used drones to create detailed aerial photos of the park. They revealed a network of hundreds of unsanctioned paths to the beach, each bare of vegetation due to many footsteps. “People who’ve been coming to the Park for years have memories of playing or riding bikes in the dunes,” says Hall. “But once the vegetation dies off, the sand starts to blow away, and you end up with huge craters that have no vegetation at all.”
The rolling boardwalks consist of sections of four-foot wooden slats stapled onto used firehoses. They are rolled up, moved to where they are needed, and then unrolled across the dunes. Sand is backfilled into the spaces between the slats to hold them in place.
Before the arrival of the pandemic, the project plan called for volunteers to help with building and deploying the boardwalks. Instead, Hall herself built 35 sections, and other Park staff have helped build and deploy more. Hall also hoped to work with local shoreline communities, sharing her expertise and demonstrating how to build the boardwalks. Now she’s planning to post building plans online.
Hall says building boardwalks doesn’t seem like wildlife conservation at first glance, but it is closely related to her field. “We have a lot of species at risk in the dunes, including insects you don’t find anywhere else in Canada. It’s a critical habitat and trampling is one of the biggest threats.” She adds, “We hope that if people see beautiful boardwalks with a sign that explains how fragile the ecosystem is, they’ll choose to use them. And it’s a lot easier when you’re lugging all your beach gear!”