"What was wrong with having a rock wall at the beach?" a member of a local service club asked me during a presentation I was making. I had a picture of the new beach up on the screen. For a second I thought he was joking.
When I saw the genuine inquisitive look on his face, I realized that basic beach processes are not fully understood by the average citizen. The first improvement to the beach at Bowman that leaps out to me is the accessibility for nearly everyone now, with the high-hurdle rockery obstacle course that we used to have replaced by gradually sloping gravel. My granddaughter loves going to Bowman to walk on the beach now. It is a joy to watch her run from the playground right onto the beach without having to stop at the top of a rock wall.
The bigger change for our environment is the value-added opportunities for forage fish to spawn in the upper third of the beach, restoring part of the natural cycle that supports our salmon and Pacific Northwest way of life. With a real upper half of a beach now, logs are drifting into the bay and settling onto the beach as if they belong there -- which they do!
Seaweeds and other debris will wash into the shoreline and begin feeding wildlife; vegetation will start growing above the beach, hosting insects which then fall back into the water and onto the beach, feeding more fish and other critters.
And we haven’t even mentioned how removing the rock wall improves the flow of beach materials all up and down the beach and throughout the bay.
The health of the sea strand is now returning to what it was before the rock wall was ever built. Here's what it looked like.
How do these stories get shared with our park neighbors and visiting public?
The Northwest Straits Foundation knew that education about the beach restoration project would be critical to the success of the story. They funded two interpretive signs to explain the value of the restoration process. Larry Eifert created two beautifully illustrated panels that share these ideas in easy to understand language and graphics. Park staff recently installed the signs, one at each end of the restored beach.
Come see the flow of life and history at Bowman Bay as portrayed in these two new additions to the Bowman Bay project.
I can’t say the project is complete, because it will be an ongoing restoration for years and decades, and an everlasting source of life and change. The beach will grow and shrink, suffer storms and change and bounce back in new and different shapes and appearances. But all of the changes will support life, and support our enjoyment of a natural shoreline, and support the future health of our Salish Sea.
Come join us on November 17 if you can to say thank you to those who made this change possible.
And give a word of thanks from wherever you are if you cannot attend, and come see the beach when you can, and walk along the shoreline, and sit on a log, and look for life all around you, life returning to how it used to be, and how it will be again.