Northland College works to clean up Ashland, Washburn beachesThe Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership is continuing work to clean up area beaches and protect public health through funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership is continuing work to clean up area beaches and protect public health through funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute (SOEI) at Northland College, working on behalf of the Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership (CBAP), secured a $192,000 grant in 2010 to conduct sanitary surveys on several area beaches and shoreline areas. The funding has allowed CBAP to target and reduce shoreline contamination in the Chequamegon Bay watershed.
Sara Hudson, Ashland Parks and Recreation Activities Coordinator, says the city experienced fewer beach closings at Maslowski Beach last summer, which she associates with CBAP cleanup efforts.
“The [Maslowski] beach usually needs to be closed a couple times each summer,” says Hudson. “Which doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but it does affect tourism.”
GLRI funding has been utilized to support CBAP partners, including the SOEI, Bayview Township, the cities of Ashland, Washburn and Bayfield, as well as the Bad River and Red Cliff Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa. The partners surveyed more than one dozen beaches from Bad River to Red Cliff.
Researchers aimed to reduce habitat for waterborne pathogens on beaches that demonstrated elevated levels of contaminants like E. coli bacteria. The collaborative effort also included water quality testing at five storm water outlets within the city of Ashland. The sampling helped target contamination sources contributing to the degradation of area beaches. The City of Ashland and other CBAP members have hosted regular beach grooming and cleanups through the aid of GLRI funding. Mike Gardner, SOEI Program Manager, says vegetation that washes up on area beaches can create an ideal host environment for E. coli to grow.
“Most of our environmental work has to do with non-point source pollution, but the motivation behind this is public health and safety,” said Gardner. “I think much like clean water, clean beaches are something that Lake Superior residents take for granted. We don’t have a lot of the problems that other Great Lakes communities have, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues.”
Gardner said Maslowski Beach in Ashland and Thompson’s West End Park in Washburn both made the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Priorities List for impaired waters, which helped prompt funding for research and cleanup efforts. Both locations may be removed from that list.
GLRI funding for the project will be exhausted by the end of August, but Gardner says work will continue.
“In between now and then, we’ll be working with communities to talk about the next scenarios about what can be done,” said Gardner. “I think one of the biggest lessons learned is that if we all work together we can make Chequamegon Bay a better place for residents and tourists alike.”
The Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership is a unique coalition of federal, state and local natural resource agencies, tribes, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, county land and water conservation professionals, Northland staff and faculty. The group collaborates to provide more effective and efficient natural resource management in the Chequamegon Bay region. In addition to the institute, participating members have been comprised of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Red Cliff and Bad River Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, Ashland, Bayfield and Iron Counties, the Cities of Ashland and Bayfield, the Bad River Watershed Association, the Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Area, UW Extension, the Bayfield Regional Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.