An army of young volunteers has been deployed to help repair and rebuild Stockton Beach’s first line of defence – its frontal dune.
Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management chairperson Petrice Manton said visitors to the park these holidays will notice the extensive work done by teams of Green Army workers to build fences to trap sand and re-establish dune vegetation on six kilometres of beachfront on the Worimi Conservation Lands.
The 20-week program is run by Wetland Care Australia, funded with a $10,000 Bush Connect grant and implemented by a Green Army team organised through Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Ms Manton said a healthy, continuous frontal dune protects the land behind it from the damaging effects of waves and wind, particularly during severe storm events.
“The frontal dune on Stockton Beach is severely degraded with dozens of major blowouts along the 22km beachfront, caused by a combination of natural and human factors,” Ms Manton said.
“The impacts from major storms in June 2012 and April 2015 were made worse from years of damage already done to the frontal dune by camping, 4WD, trail and quad bike access.”
“Gaps in the frontal dune allow the sea to inundate the swale areas behind it, uncovering and damaging cultural sites, destroying habitat for plants and animals, and restricting visitor access.”
“Inundation of these swale areas resulted in the park being closed several times during the past few years.”
“While we can’t control the storms that will continue to have an impact, it is important that we remove the visitor related impacts from the frontal dune, as part of our long term rehabilitation effort.”
Ms Manton said the Green Army teams were lending a helping hand to the natural process of sand build-up on the dunes.
“Normally, beach vegetation on the frontal dune would trap sand and the dune would rebuild itself in an ongoing cycle of erosion and replenishment,” Ms Manton said.
“When the frontal dune is repeatedly disturbed, becomes flattened, or is non-existent, and there is no native vegetation to trap sand, this natural process can’t occur.”
Ms Manton said mesh fencing is being installed where an intact frontal dune should be.
“The fences catch the sand blown by the prevailing winds, and builds the height of the frontal dune.”
“When one fence is covered with sand, an additional fence is built on top of it.”
“Jute matting is placed over the top of the frontal dune to trap moisture, which supports the establishment of dune vegetation.”
Ms Manton said an added benefit of the fencing was its role in helping to define the location of the frontal dune for park visitors, particularly during peak visitor periods like the upcoming school holidays.
“One of our key challenges in protecting the frontal dune from vehicles and pedestrian traffic is actually defining where it is, or should be,” Ms Manton said.
“The fencing makes the frontal dune much more evident to visitors and it becomes very clear where they can drive on the beachfront, and to stay clear of the frontal dune.”
“Removing visitor impacts on the frontal dune will be key to the success of our rehabilitation efforts.”
When the 3km stretch of fencing south from the Anna Bay beachfront entrance is completed, the focus will shift to the southern section of the park to continue frontal dune fencing, weeding and planting south of the Lavis Lane entrance.
“The board would like to thank the Green Army teams for their impressive work to help us protect the frontal dune,” Ms Manton said
“The long-term goal is to continue this type of fencing along the entire length of the beach.”
The Green Army is a hands-on, practical environmental action programme for Australians aged 17-24 that supports local environment and heritage conservation projects across Australia.