Beach grass, dune-building, plantings

It's what's happening at Grinnell's Beach

By Tom Killin Dalglish
Posted 6/8/19

TIVERTON — Beach grass, a/k/a dune grass. It's got a job to do at Grinnell's Beach, and it's doing it.

The master plan for the rehabilitation of Tiverton's Grinnell's Beach called for the creation of two small sand dunes, a kind of coastal buffer, said Wenley Ferguson, Director of Restoration for Save the Bay.

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Beach grass, dune-building, plantings

It's what's happening at Grinnell's Beach

Posted

TIVERTON — Beach grass, a/k/a dune grass. It's got a job to do at Grinnell's Beach, and it's doing it. 
The master plan for the rehabilitation of Tiverton's Grinnell's Beach called for the creation of two small sand dunes, a kind of coastal buffer, said Wenley Ferguson, Director of Restoration for Save the Bay.
So Ms. Ferguson, along with Town Councilor Patricia Hilton, Chairwoman of the Grinnell's Beach Improvement Committee, with the help of a bevy of volunteers last year and this, planted a total of 3,700 beach grass plants recently into the sand in two areas at the beach, which in time will facilitate the formation of the desired dunes.
It will also improve pollinator habitat.
Ms. Hilton said there will be more plantings of shrubs and bushes in the weeks to come. The restoration of the beach is a continuing effort.
For about four years now, at an estimated cost of $450,000 - $500,000 in grants and in-kind services from the town, Grinnell's Beach has been under reconstruction and renovation. It is now getting ready to open to the public for the season over Memorial Day weekend..
On April 13, 2018, Ms. Ferguson and Ms. Hilton, with volunteers, planted a sand berm area, roughly 200 feet by 15 feet, at the south edge of the parking lot with 2,200 beach grass plants, at an estimated cost of $192.
"It's doing very well," Ms. Ferguson said. "It's not a huge dune, but it will help during smaller weather and storm events."
You can't tell the planted area from the natural, she said. The dune will help keep the parking lot from flooding, and will help build up sand and the elevation of the area.
This April 11, they planted 1,500 more dune grass plants, at an estimated cost of $150, on the steep slope south and west of the sail structure, an area roughly 10 feet by 100 feet. And even more recently they planted shrubs and bushes in other beach locations.
Each beach grass planting occasion took about two hours, Ms. Ferguson said. "We plant individual bare roots, about 6 inches into the ground using a trowel."
"The beach grass helps stabilize the sand. It's very hardy. In two months time you can see sand accumulation between the plants — it traps the sand."
Beach grass is an "amazingly resilient plant." she said. By year two after planting, she said, the planted area will be very dense.
"The grass will send out runners — 'tillers' or shoots. When it's on its own it will spread and keep going, and will grow 18"-24" tall," she said.
"It looks like a dance when the wind blows, the glossy greens, that sort of shimmers and blows with the wind. It creates these wonderful patterns in the sand. And it has a graceful seed head in the fall, that extends above the grass."
In addition to the beach grass, Ms. Ferguson said the restoration efforts thus far have involved planting native Virginia roses and shrubs on October 28, 2017 along Main Road to the south of the beach entrance and outside the rehabilitation area.

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