June 24, 2018
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Ogunquit fears loss of beach to erosion, walking path to invasive plants

By Chris Hayden, York County Coast Star

OGUNQUIT, Maine — The board of selectmen took concrete actions last week to preserve Ogunquit Beach and Marginal Way at the recommendation of the committees commissioned to study erosion problems.

The slow and steady progression of nature is eroding the two areas that are important to the town, not only in aesthetics but also in dollars.

On Marginal Way, invasive species are slowly taking over the walking path, according to Joan Griswold, a member of the Marginal Way Committee. The plants work their way onto the paths and are slowly taking it over, already narrowing the walkway in several areas.

“We could lose Marginal Way,” Griswold said.

Griswold presented a three-year plan to remove and control the invasive species and replace them with native plants, asking the board of selectmen at its Tuesday meeting to approve the appropriation of $6,300 from a $10,000 annual budget line item for Marginal Way in the department of public works budget for the first year of the plan.

The plan includes a survey of the plants negatively impacting the Marginal Way, as well as working with a licensed herbicide applicator to kill the species working their way onto the path, though Griswold was sensitive to the current pesticide ban working its way through legal issues.

“There’s no other way,” Griswold said of using herbicides. “Herbicides are all around us, and everyone is carefully using them out of necessity.”

Griswold contacted several Maine nonprofits whose missions include preserving historical and natural environments; they concluded they all use herbicides in some way or another.

In addition, the committee will hold community meetings to update the public on its work and survey findings, and they will work with the transfer station in town on proper disposal of the invasive species.

The Beach Erosion Committee also presented a request for funding as they try to combat the loss of sand and native vegetation along the beaches in town.

Paul Breen, chair of the Beach Erosion Committee, said the board of selectmen charged his committee with two questions: Is the beach eroding, and what should they do about it?

They concluded the beach is eroding in several areas and admitted that, while they don’t have all solutions for the problem, Breen and the committee are looking to hire a consultant to advise the town on how to best proceed. The consultant fee is approximately $50,000.

In the meantime, though, the committee asked the Board for $11,000 for immediate action along the south end of the beach, by the dunes where the erosion is especially noticeable and becoming more pronounced.

The action along the south end will include, according to Breen, a series of experiments to add to the sand depth. One such attempt will be to plant a matrix of wooden stakes in the ground to help catch the sand as it is blown by the wind; once the sand gets to a desired depth, they will plant beach grass, which will help hold the existing sand.

Another idea from the committee is to add bushes along the ocean side of the parking lot to help cut down on wind and to conduct a plant audit, determining native versus invasive species.

The board of selectmen approved the $11,000 for the immediate work to begin, given the high profile nature of the action and the need to keep the beaches active during the summer months.

“That parking lot represents $1.7 million in revenue,” Breen said. “It is an economic argument.”

While the Beach Erosion Committee has no budget, the $11,000 was allocated out of the Emergency Disaster Fund, recommended by selectman David Barton.

The $50,000 to hire a consultant will be presented to voters in November as a warrant article. Breen said he and his committee need to work on the language for the article they will present to the board at a later date.

It was important, selectman Gary Latulippe said, to fund both of these committees’ requests, not only because the work is important to the town but “because we ask volunteers to do this and the next time we ask, they might not come.”


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