Erosion Control Project

Loyola Park is currently experiencing wind erosion of the beach as a consequence of frequent storms and no ice cover.  We have  proposed 10-20 x 2000 foot strip of native grass to catch and hold blowing sand.

Background

Loyola Park is a large park with 23 acres of beach.  There are four cement or metal groins that protrude into the water and capture sand in addition to and north of the pier.  Depending on the direction of the wind and the severity of the storm, the sand on the beach is blown into the rest of the park, covering grass, playing fields, playgrounds and on the extreme day, the parking lot.

Each winter the Chicago Park District (CPD) erects snow fence and mounds up berms to retard the movement of sand.  This year there were fewer berms installed later in the year.  Sand had to be plowed off of the sidewalks (in some places it was a foot deep) and off the parking lot.  Each spring the snow fence is removed and the berms are flattened.

Discussion

One entire section of park that used to be grass is now covered in sand.   There is still a bit of grass on the top of some of the dunes that have formed, but with the short root structure of conventional lawn grass, it does not hold sand and the sand in that area in turn blows into the parking lot.

Native plants and grasses have evolved for just such an environment.  They have long roots that hold sand.  They can outgrow the rise of sand.  They are used to a dry and windy environment and they do not need to be mowed.   They grow in an attractive clumping format.  They slow down the wind at ground level and allow the sand to drop out.  Native plants provide other uses in terms of habitat for migrating birds, flowers and decorative seed pods for arrangements.

With a narrow strip of plants perhaps 10-20 feet wide, the erosion problem could be drastically improved while saving the park district money in the erecting and dismantling of winter-only berms.  Access to the beach would be maintained by frequent openings in the strip and a path wide enough for vehicles would remain for the beach sanitizer, police and garbage truck use.  The flat part of the beach would remain for use for sunbathers, Lake access, kite flying etc.  The tree shaded grassy area would be preserved for picnics, ad hoc games and exercising.

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2 thoughts on “Erosion Control Project

  1. The first day’s planting was approximately 360 feet of combined length. Do we really have 1,700 feet left to plant? Ugh. I’m tired from just the first day but it was worth it.

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