North Point Marina Beach Safe for Swimming Once More

Project Summary: Open expanses of sand attracted many gulls to the North Point Marina beach polluting the water. By restoring native plants to Lake Michigan beach and the dune habitat, gulls stopped frequenting the beach and water quality has been restored, allowing a popular beach to remain open most of the season.

Project name: North Point Marina Beach Restoration

Location: Winthrop Harbor, Ill.

Gulls swarm North Point Marina beach by the thousands, deterring beach goers and hurting water quality. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Health Department.

Gulls swarm North Point Marina beach by the thousands, deterring beach goers and hurting water quality. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Health Department.

Description: A popular beach along Lake Michigan near the North Point Marina was rather small in the 1990s—the beach was only about an acre in size. Due to natural sand deposition from the flow of water in the lake, by 2005 the beach had swollen in size to 9 acres. Such a large, open expanse of sand is attractive to gulls, which swarmed the beach by the hundreds. Gulls can be unpleasant to deal with during a day at the beach, but the substantial amount of feces that built up caused bigger problems: The waste from the gulls got so bad that the beach was closed as much as 80 percent of the time during the swimming season due to unsafe water quality.

The Lake County Health Department—responsible for water quality testing at the beach—worked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to restore the area to health. The project removed invasive plants and restored native plants to the dunes to decrease gull habitat and to reduce beach closures. Thanks to these plantings, gull populations around the beach have decreased and this has led to a decrease in beach closures: in 2012 the beach was only closed for 14 percent of the swimming season.

Approximate cost of project: $250,000 with all funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Resource challenge addressed: poor water quality, lack of diverse habitat, invasive species

Key partners (public and private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Lake County Health Department, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Lake County Forest Preserve, Village of Winthrop Harbor; City of Chicago, and City of Racine.

Native species such as hairy puccoon help restore dune habitat and deter gulls, thereby improving water quality. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Health Department.

Native species such as hairy puccoon help restore dune habitat and deter gulls, thereby improving water quality. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Health Department.

Types of jobs created: general laborers, water quality assessors, lab technicians

Results and accomplishments: Thanks to work from the Lake County Health Department, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and other partners the beach near North Point Marina has seen a dramatic increase in water quality. In 2007 the beach was closed during 82 percent of the swimming season, largely due to contaminated water. By planting grasses and other native plants on more areas of the beach to decrease gull habitat, the water quality on the beach improved dramatically. By 2012 the beach was only closed for 14 percent of the swimming season. Newly planted areas also provide habitat and diversity for native wildlife, which invasive plants, formerly on the site, did not.

Website: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Pages/NorthPointMarina.aspx

Originally published on: September 17, 2015

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