The winter storm season, from Oct. 15 to April 15, is considered the optimum time to utilize this type of “biomimicry” system, but the city chose to install it during the summer with the hope of educating visitors and possibly capturing sand blown by “side-shore” summer winds, according to city officials.
The “biomimicry” system is one of two projects currently underway to protect and rebuild the coastal dunes on the northern portion of Plum Island. The other component, erection of sand fencing along the 61st Street path, is aimed at keeping beach-goers from walking on the fragile dune grass and “back dune” vegetation that anchors the sand to the island. This is the most expansive area of coastal dune on Newburyport’s northern end of Plum Island. It protects the neighborhoods along North Reservation Terrace and Northern Boulevard from the kind of coastal erosion and storm damage that is well known on other parts of Plum Island.
“Our goal is to keep this vast dune system healthy and strong by minimizing disturbance to the healthy vegetation. Dune grass can withstand 80-mile-per-hour winds but will die if trampled,” Conservation Administrator Julia Godtfredsen said.
Residents and visitors going to and from the beach near 61st Street should use this pathway whenever possible. New signage has been erected along the sand fence to direct beach-goers and educate them about dune protection. There are additional public access points at the ends of 57th, 55th and 53rd streets in Newburyport, Godtfredsen added.
Conservation officials began discussing the possible use of the “biomimicry” system during a public meeting April which drew members of the island’s Beach Management Committee.