Breaking News
More () »

'Washed out' dunes at Willard Beach to be restored after December storm

The City of South Portland said the plan serves as a pilot project not just for the city, but for the state of Maine as well.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The City of South Portland announced Thursday its plans to restore the dunes at Willard Beach that were "washed out" when a major storm on Dec. 23 brought "exceptionally high tides."

The city said in a news release the restoration of the dunes between Willard Street and Myrtle Avenue would "protect important public infrastructure, namely the wastewater force main that runs along the beach, in addition to providing wildlife habitat."

The plan to restore the damaged dunes utilizes an approach that has been reportedly successful in other areas of the U.S. to rebuild the dunes both naturally and economically, according to the release.

"The plan calls for repurposing used Christmas trees and placing them into the dunes to help trap blowing sand and rebuild the dunes," the city said in the release. "This project was suggested by MGS (Maine Geological Survey) based on the success North Carolina and Alabama have seen in using this technique for 40+ years."

The city said the plan serves as a pilot project not just for South Portland, but for the state of Maine as well—no other beach in Maine has used this technique before.

"South Portland Parks, Recreation and Waterfront staff acted quickly in collaboration with the Department of Public Works to utilize the City’s collection of discarded Christmas trees for the project," the release said.

South Portland is now waiting for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to approve and implement the plan, the city said. 

While waiting for approval from the DEP, the collected Christmas trees will "be lined up in rows to act as sand traps for blowing sand and to slow any wave action that might reach them," the city said.

Once the Christmas trees become covered with said, they will then become a natural part of the dunes at Willard Beach, according to the release.

The City of South Portland said it expects to begin planting the trees in the sand dunes as early as this month, or once the DEP approves the proposal.

"Only the City may place trees in the dunes and asks the public to remember that no dumping of any kind is allowed on the beach or in other public areas," the city said Thursday.

Once the plan gains approval and takes off running, the City will then assess how much sand the Christmas trees have naturally collected by the springtime. The city said Thursday that additional matching sand may have to be transported in to help fill the dune area even more.

"Once sufficient sand is in place, the City will replant dune grass on the stretch of beach between Willard Street and Myrtle Ave," the City added.

The dune restoration plan for Willard Beach was created by South Portland Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront staff in consultation with the Cumberland County Emergency Management Association (CCEMA), Maine DEP, and MGS, the release said.

The restoration project was deemed ineligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds through CCEMA and is projected to cost around $20,000, the City said.

“We’re grateful to the many experts who helped craft this plan and all those who expressed concern about the dunes in the aftermath of the storm,” South Portland Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Director Karl Coughlin said Thursday. “It’s clear that our beach is treasured, and we look forward to getting going on our plan to bring back the dunes.”

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

For the latest breaking news, weather, and traffic alerts, download the NEWS CENTER Maine mobile app.

Before You Leave, Check This Out