This past week, I attended a special event at Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park. We gathered to celebrate the restoration of the beach and near-shore habitat there. This was a multi-agency project that included:
- The Northwest Straits Foundation
- Skagit County Marine Resources Committee
- Washington State Parks
- Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
New interpretive signs tell the story of the beach's history. This includes a fish hatchery built in the 1940's and a rip-rap sea wall installed to protect it. Unknown at the time, this kind of armoring disrupts natural beach processes and biological habitat. Driftwood, shore grasses, overhanging trees and normal upland runoff stabilize and nourish a healthy beach. Forage fish spawn there providing food for young salmon. Insects inhabiting the vegetation attract the forage fish as well as birds. Seawalls interfere with these processes rendering the shoreline and beach lifeless.
I had to go back to 2011 in my files to find photos of the old seawall. These were the only two I could find. As you can see, it was not very photogenic. The large rip-rap stones also denied park visitors access to the beach. Click or right-click the photos to view them full size.
The restored beach at Bowman Bay is now starting to look more like a natural beach. Volunteers have been planting and caring for native dune grasses, shrubs and trees along the shoreline to help the naturalization process. In time, winter storms will deliver more stabilizing driftwood. Beach surveys have revealed that forage fish spawning is already taking place here.
Eventually, the restored section will look like the undisturbed parts of the Bowman beach. Next time you visit, notice how these grasses and trees are always alive with birds and insects.
Fostering healthy beaches and shorelines is not just for big state agencies and organizations. Waterfront and streamside home owners can follow this example when caring for their properties. The Washington Department of Ecology provides Tips and Tools for Property Owners. You can also become a Washington Shore Steward and learn about their 10 Guidelines for shoreline living (.pdf).
A new promenade along the restored shoreline allows visitors to stroll, check out the project and take in the views of Bowman Bay:
Enjoy this video from the Northwest Straits Foundation that tells the story of the Bowman Bay restoration project: