Duxbury Beach restoration project creates new landscape
Massachusetts - A whole new landscape greets the walker along the Duxbury Beach road out to Gurnet.
DUXBURY -- Last winter’s beach restoration project at Duxbury Beach wrapped up successfully in March and on Saturday I had a chance to walk out Gurnet Road to Gurnet Light right beside where the work took place. It was an impressive sight.
Duxbury Beach Reservation Inc. happened to be holding their annual meeting at the High Pines Cottage a few miles down the road and I could hear applause coming from the building behind the trees as I walked by on the road. Well deserved.
The dune restoration project was managed by the Duxbury Beach Reservation, a nonprofit group working to save the barrier beach for future generations. The project, which started in December, was briefly interrupted in January by frigid temperatures, then resumed with a deadline of finishing by the end of March. Come April 1, that part of the beach closed to protect the piping plover.
More than 76,500 tons trucked in from Carver have been deposited on the beach to build higher dunes in shapes designed to blunt the ocean’s force. Come summer, as families arrive, they will see new landscapes, ones that have delighted Maggie Kearney, president of the Duxbury Beach Reservation.
As Maggie said this winter, “The dune looks 10 times wider, flat like a plateau. You could have a soccer game on it.”
It was frightening, she said, before the restoration to drive out to the beach across Powder Point Bridge, look ahead and instead of seeing dunes, see the ocean and the potential for flooding over the beach, road and parking areas during winter storms. “The ocean was rising and the land was subsiding,” she said.
She has been president of the group for 13 years but has been coming to the beach for more than 70. During that time, there have been three large-scale re-buildings of a section of the beach after punishing winter storms going back to 1992.
In August, the group received $500,000 from the state’s Coast Zone Management Coastal Resiliency Program to add sand to rebuild or nourish 3,600 feet of the narrowest part of the beach and a protective dune.
Cris Luttazi, executive director of the group, said the goal is to keep the integrity of the beach by strengthening critical or most fragile parts, increasing the width of the dunes from 6 feet to 45 feet. If the new sand is washed away by forceful waves, the landscape has been designed so it will move to other parts within the beach, staying within the system. “We are working with what we know the storms are doing,” Luttzai said. “We know that barrier beach sands do move and they roll over themselves every 100 years.”
The project is using a ‘living shoreline’ approach on the east and west sides of the ocean-side dune that will provide erosion control, buffer storm surge and protect critical habitat for wildlife. “Beach nourishment,” or hauling in sand to rebuild the dunes, does not stop erosion, but it does strengthen the sand-starved system by adding compatible material, Luttazi has said.
Along the way, I saw thousands of new dune grass stalks planted by SumCo Eco-Contracting of Peabody -- in total, 80,000 stalks of dune grass have been planted to trap the sand and hold the dune in place and to place fencing along the top. Reservation volunteers planted woody shrubs including beach plum. On March 23, there was a beach cleanup and now reservation staff will monitor how well the new beach grass grows and fills in the slopes.
As part of the new design, the first and second cross-over sections — spots where SUVs with over-sand permits drive from the road through openings in the dunes to the beach — have been raised to fit with the higher dunes. The angle of the first cross-over has been changed, so that oncoming waves in a storm can not flood the road. The crews also fixed the post and cable along the back road and graded it.