Providence Bay Beach cleanup permit is being put to good use

A group of Providence Bay residents turned out for the annual beach cleanup on Saturday, May 12. Volunteers bagged piles of debris, picked up garbage and searched for invasive plants before enjoying a barbecue lunch. - photo by Lori Thompson

PROVIDENCE BAY—Central Manitoulin crews were busy at the Providence Bay Beach recently as they conducted remedial work on the famed beach and boardwalk under the auspices of a 25-year permit secured by the town last year.

“It’s a little bit funny,” admitted Councillor Alex Baran. “For years it was assumed that because of the stringent environmental regulations that are in place these days and the presence of endangered species that nothing could be done about the beach.” So essentially nobody really pushed the matter with the Ministry of the Environment or the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

But a couple of well-placed phone calls and a bit of follow up discovered that there was actually a process whereby the beach could be cleaned up and maintained. Particularly since much of the damage being done was actually being caused by the presence of invasive species that were crowding out the endangered native species that were assumed to prevent any cleanup attempt.

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“We are in the second year of our permit,” said Central Manitoulin Economic Development Officer Nancy Kinoshemeg. “The permit allows us to conduct beach and boardwalk cleanup.”

Under the careful guidance of Island biologist Judith Jones of Winter Spider Eco-Consulting the town has identified those parts of the beach where endangered species are located and what invasive species have encroached on the beach.

Thanks to the detailed plans submitted to the MNRF and the 25-year permit that the ministry issued, the town has been relieved of the necessity, and considerable paperwork required in reapplying for a permit to work on the beach every year.

“We have found a balance between having an area that everyone can enjoy and protecting species at risk,” said Ms. Kinoshemeg. “Last year we removed a lot of invasive vegetation around the playground and volleyball court.” This year the work was a bit more aggressive, removing trees and shrubs that do not belong in the beach dune ecology that supports the endangered species. Some of the shrubs were removed last year and the remainder were removed this year.

There is still a bit of work to be done this year, including clearing the pathway from the boardwalk to the water.

“The most important thing to emphasize is that the work has to be completed as part of a proper beach management plan,” noted Ms. Kinoshemeg. The work has been completed on municipal property but the hope is that private landowners will take their lead from the work being done by the municipality. “The hope is that other waterfront owners would look and see what can be achieved,” she said.

The annual Providence Bay beach cleanup took place on Saturday, May 12. Volunteers picked up garbage and raked mounds of debris left behind by municipal workers.  Some walked the shoreline looking for phragmites fragments and roots that constituted a tripping hazard.

One volunteer, Joanne, was singled out as someone who is instrumental in maintaining a clean and welcoming beach. In addition to participating in the annual cleanup, Joanne walks the beach daily on garbage and phragmites patrol. While phragmites removal was undertaken last year you have to remain vigilant, she explained.

The Providence Bay residents expressed relief that beach remedial work was finally underway, noting the sandy beach and clear waters were the main draw for the tourist town.