Ephemeral…The Rest of The Story
Beach stabilization is a constant concern for anyone who lives on/near the water. In my last post: https://dunelight.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/ephemeral/ , I shared a photo of a little girl rapt in making and counting ‘sand’ pies. To better illustrate the transience of beaches and all things time I wanted to show you the little girl’s “Sand Pie Table” from a different angle and a different year:
This is from last summer. The sand was born away by high water and storms leaving behind the larger boulders of rip rap that help stabilize the sea wall. The little girl had her pies lined up on top of the wall just a bit right of the graduation graffitti. That wall is steep. If I stood next to it I could not see over it. This photo, along with the earlier ones, show the ephemeral nature of beaches and time, as does my story below.
I fell off that wall today. I have to go back. The City of Norton Shores decided it would be better to buy their water from the city of Muskegon. Towards that end a massive construction project has disrupted our beach world for over a year now. I blogged about it: https://dunelight.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/weekly-photo-challenge-between/ . You can see how large those pipes are. Deep trenches were dug through the heart of my neighborhood and out along Beach Street that runs the length of our sugar fine sand beach on Lake Michigan.
I have to go further back, back before the turn of the 20th century. Towns and cities took their water fronts for granted. Bodies of water were for shipping and commerce and for the dumping of waste. Towns literally turned their backs on their water fronts. Over time many towns (Chicago, SanFrancisco) built up their waterfront and beaches on land fill. Turns out so did Muskegon. Digging these deep trenches disturbed that original fill. Up with the sand came a lot of history in the form of garbage; large shards of plate glass, antique bottles, broken chimneys, rusty nails, old paint cans, broken ceramics….in short, not optimal beach material. The old fill garbage from this construction was never disposed of properly. I discovered that it had been scooped up into large piles and left on the beach. Those piles of garbage blended with the regular large sand piles that the city constructs every year as they push the snows and blown sands from November gales to the side of the road. (The amount of sand a gale can move is awe inspiring. I’ll share photos sometime.)
I was out shooting the extensive ice pack early in March of this year when I climbed what I thought was a normal winter sand pile to get a better view of the pack ice on Lake Michigan. I found I was ankle deep in broken glass and metal shards. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do so I took pictures and videos. During the middle of the month the city spread out the regular winter piles of sand as they do every year. Unfortunately the garbage piles were also spread out evenly over the beach. I was livid.
I ended up calling and meeting with the Coast Guard on Monday of this week when I discovered that some of the fill had been pushed into Lake Michigan. I also posted videos of the nature of the piles on FB asking my neighbors if anyone knew what was up. From there it grew. I could not let it go. On Tuesday I contacted the woman in charge of City Parks and wrote to our Commissioner. On Wednesday the press got a hold of it. I did not want to go on TV. Instead, at noon on Wednesday I met with the man in charge of public works and showed him the area of the beach I was concerned about. In real time I picked up fill garbage that was laying on the sand and showed it to him. Promises were made. Wednesday afternoon the commissioner called to tell me my videos were used on television and thanks for my vigilance.
Today I went down to see which promises had been kept. A lot of the garbage had been removed from the fast receding ice forms on The Lake and the sand on the beach had been moved around again. I saw some more construction garbage out on an ice shelf that had formed on top of the little girl’s pie pantry. (At last, I have come full circle.) I wanted that piece of evidence as some were trying to make it out that I couldn’t tell the difference between clean fill, rip rap, garbage and construction fill. I know my beaches. The waves were running to three feet on a SouthWest wind but were carrying huge ice boulders. I looked at the rotten ice shelf, the evidence I needed and the grinding ice boulders, I took some vid then walked up to a perfect stranger, told him what I was going to do and would he be so kind as to please come get me if I fell in. I laid belly down on the ice, timed the waves and went for it. The minute I grabbed my evidence the ice shelf gave way and I went headfirst over the wall with my boots in the air. It was my finest Darwin moment.
In short I told that stranger what I was up to, that the ice was not safe and that I might go over the edge. And then I went over the edge. Boy Howdy, that stranger was fast and I’m here with my evidence, my vids, my photos and my ice rash to tell the tale. Thank you, random beach stranger. We are all stewards of this planet…this lovely ephemeral blue marble.
I wanted to focus on the positive with this blog. I guess this is a positive story as it ended well for future beach goers.
EDIT: Ice Rash…the northerner’s winter version of road rash.