Central prepares for work on Providence Bay Beach

PROVIDENCE BAY—The Municipality of Central Manitoulin has begun preparing for work on the Providence Bay beach, under a permit issued to the municipality by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF). The permit issued is valid for 25 years, which will allow work to be done in a staged manner rather than all at once. It will also allow Central Manitoulin to make sure the work it does to keep the sand open has long-lasting results, and to keep annual costs within the municipality’s budget constraints.

“We know that some of our past actions have not worked to keep the beach in shape, and we’ve been informed that some may even have made things worse,” stated Nancy Kinoshameg, economic development officer for Central Manitoulin. She mentioned that years of cutting back willows and other shrubs may have actually encouraged their spread and promoted stronger root systems.

The permit is for specific work to be undertaken by or under the direct supervision of the municipality. “When we applied for the permit, we looked at what is needed in detail, and proposed how we want to accomplish it. The permit we’ve received specifies exactly what actions we may do and where,” said Ms. Kinoshameg.

According to the municipality, the permit allows the clearing of sand in specific parts of the beach. It also requires the municipality to offset any negative impacts to dune ecology by making improvements to the natural dune habitat in other parts of the beach. Fortunately, some of those improvements may include things the municipality is already doing, such as removing invasive phragmites.

Work is planned to begin this fall with some test runs to see what methods and equipment achieve the desired results most efficiently. After that, the best methods will be applied to larger areas. The municipality is planning, over a number of summers, to remove shrubs—roots and all—from some parts of the beach, and to reduce other types of vegetation in key places. As well, Central Manitoulin will now be able to maintain the playground, volleyball court, and beach in front of the Harbour Centre free of vegetation, which will help create a better experience for beach-goers.

Central Manitoulin will also begin to reduce some vegetation along the boardwalk and the access stairs. However, since this part of the beach is considered natural habitat for the endangered Pitcher’s thistle and several other rare dune species, the municipality is required to keep track of the work it does and to document the results. After the initial testing, the next work will go ahead in stages, with actions happening outside of the main beach-use season, in early spring and/or late fall. A major effort is expected sometime in 2017 as Central Manitoulin begins what will be a long-term undertaking.