The southern tip of Vancouver Island contains the Capital Regional District (CRD). The people of the Capital Region love their beaches, which are vital habitat for a great variety of terrestrial and marine life, including otters, raccoons, birds, fish, invertebrates, algae and plants. Additionally, these beaches provide places for families and for solitude, for recreation and rest, for humans and their pets.
Our beaches are under threat from multiple sources. Pollution and other impacts include overland flow erosion, outfalls and storm drain outlets, garbage and derelict boats, dog feces and trampling, compaction and disturbance, sea-level rise, climate-related storm activity increases and backshore development.
Protection and conservation of beaches and their features is jurisdictionally complicated – all four levels of government have overlapping responsibilities – this leads to dysfunctional governmental stewardship of the beach area.
Stewardship of places by residents – those who value and utilize them – helps cut through the jurisdictional overlap. This is a ‘bottom-up’ approach to stewardship development that PSS has employed with success on watersheds since 2002.
The purpose of the BEACH Initiative is to empower local citizens through the support that stewardship leadership can provide: education, training and organization related to beach conservation and protection. It is an environmentally-responsive initiative that recognizes that multiple uses are a reality in today’s urban beach setting.
The BEACH Initiative delivers stewardship support in the following ways:
Citizen Science and Public Education
Although many people know their beaches intimately – how many logs are there, what changes are evident on the beach over seasons, etc. they generally don’t know how the beach came into being, what geophysical processes are in play and how the beach will fare in light of threats. Flora and fauna studies, beach sediment transport mapping, and forage fish utilization are all useful citizen-science activities. The BEACH Initiative will provide information at a high level through website storage and distribution of educational material related to beaches. As well, information will be delivered at public meetings, seminars and presentations by BEACH staff and expert speakers. Directed education is provided with on-site training in scientific data collection based on various citizen-science protocols including those associated with Washington State Dept. of Ecology (WS-DOE) forage fish studies and related programs.
Conservation and Protection
Pollution, animal and plant poaching, sediment removal, riparian and beach damage, unpermitted development & log removal are all activities that citizens often witness but are unclear on whether the activities are legal or environmentally damaging. BEACH provides information and training on Observe, Record and Report protocols and encourages citizens to identify and safely report infractions or developing environmental problems.
Along with education about dynamic beach processes, stewards will be trained to identify when threats are developing or imminent. Armed with this knowledge stewards will be in a position to help mitigate some of these threats by lobbying and supporting activities such as beach protection, enhancement, nourishment and restoration.
The Green Shores Program will be introduced and promoted to stewards. This will provide them with the ability to encourage their local government, developers and neighbours to act responsibly and adopt Green Shores principles and protocols.