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Beach repair at J.T. Cheeseman’s Park

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The beach at J. T. Cheeseman Provincial Park showed signs of erosion even a few years before Fiona (above), but the small exposed section of steel supports are now competely exposed and the sand dunes have buried the parking lot (below). – © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

PORT AUX BASQUES — One of the jewels of the Southwest Coast is J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park. The beach is frequented year-round by locals, but after Hurricane Fiona it became clear that the beach didn’t emerge unscathed. The sand dunes were so high that they had all but completely buried heavy steel supports from an old railway, but since Fiona the dunes have been mostly blown away, soft sand now covers the former parking lot and the steel beams now tower above the heads of most adults.

In response to email inquiries, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation said they are in the process of restoring the Cheeseman’s beach to its former glory. “The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation is working to ensure that the damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona is repaired so that residents and visitors to our province can continue to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature at J. T. Cheeseman Provincial Park.” The department did agree that the damage sustained on the beachfront was quite significant. “Approximately 100 – 150 meters of sand dune was washed inland by the storm surge in September. As a result, sand covered the parking lot in the beach area, and washroom facilities, signage and a boat shelter were destroyed. Some minor erosion also occurred on the road leading to the beach, but the road remains passable. A contractor will begin work in the near future to repair this damage and stabilize the road into the park.” Certain aspects of the beach will remain untouched. “Movement of the sand dune is a natural process that occurs in this area, and it is not our practice to interfere with that process unless it presents imminent risk to human safety. While the extent of the movement in this case is significant, the beach will likely backfill itself naturally, as it has in the past.” Aside from structural damage, there is the concern with the wildlife habitats affected by the damage sustained during Fiona, particularly nests of the piping plover. The endangered seabird usually arrives in Atlantic Canada as early as mid-April to nest. “The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture advises that there are no concerns about piping plover nests at J. T. Cheeseman Provincial Park at this time in relation to the damage caused by the storm. Piping plovers nest between May and July. Therefore, all chicks were hatched and adults and chicks had left the province for their annual migration south by the time the storm arrived. Piping Plovers do not build actual nests that they re-use each year. They choose an area to lay eggs and generally make a scrape in the sand. Although they tend to come back to the same beaches annually, the specific location on that beach varies every year. It is fully expected that the piping plovers will return next year and find a new location on the beach to lay their eggs.”

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