FAQ - Why are some beach areas overgrown with beach grass?
- Written by Darlene Watters
- Category: Tourist FAQ's
- Created: 19 February 2016
- Hits: 1870
Most visitors don't see this part of the beach and may be asking "beach grass? What beach grass?" This is a concern mostly for seasonal cottage owners and some residents. I think the grass is pretty but it does increase the amount of mosquitoes and other annoying pests when you try to walk through it.
I wrote about the beach grass in 2010 before they began to manage it more closely.
--------------------------------------2010 story ---------------------------------------
Beach grass is another one of those issues that gets some locals hot under the collar. In fact, it is unlawful to remove the grass although some residents have taken out their lawn tractors and cut huge swaths of grass in front of their cottages.
In recent years, Ontario Parks has decided that it is not in the best interest of the environment to remove the beach grass. Why? Well, apparently it is a "valuable habitat for wildlife".
This is what Ontario Parks has to say about the grass:
"Marram grass is one plant species that has specially adapted to survive and actually thrive in this harsh beach environment. As a colonizing species, this plant is able to stretch itself towards the lake from the dunes and supply new shoots of the plant with nutrients from the original plant. Marram grass has the ability to hold sand in place and create dunes on the beach and for this reason park staff will plant this species annually in an attempt to maintain natural dune stabilization. The process of building dunes occurs gradually as a result of two features of the plant: long blades of grass which slow the movement of blowing sand, and a vast network of roots that stabilize sand. As marram grass is established on the beach, past roots and blades of the plant provide nutrients for other plant species to exist in the dunes on the beach.
At the most eastern and western fringes of Wasaga Beach sand dunes are not present; however, in these locations wetland meadows exist. This is a unique environment that forms as a result of lower water levels on Georgian Bay. Presently, near shore areas where the water table is close to the surface, water seeps up and through the sand and plants such as three squared rush and soft rush are present. These are plants specialized to grow in wet environments."
The grass is beautiful to look at as it sways in the breeze but it is difficult to walk through as it is very sharp (and will cut you!). It grows very tall making it impossible to lay down a blanket and chairs. In some areas such as Beach 6, the grass takes up a considerable portion of the beach leaving little room for sun-worshippers to enjoy themselves. Additionally, the grass is home to a variety of insects and tends to be marshy. It looks dry but in fact, it's wetland and a quick trek through the stuff will ruin your shoes.
Your view of it comes down to your acceptance of nature. This is nature. A beach free of grass is terrific for a picnic but void of wildlife. There are areas of Wasaga Beach which do not have any beach grass at all, while others that would need a machete to navigate to the shore. Just west of Beach 6, you can follow paths that residents have created and plunk your chair and towel down right at the shore line. I happen to live in this area and know from experience that during a quiet time of day, perhaps early morning or evening, deer, wild turkeys and other creatures will make their way from the woods to the grass to feed. It can be inconvenient but the rewards are worth it.
Wasaga Beach really has something to offer for every type of vacation. If you would rather avoid the beach grass and wildlife, just stay east of Beach 6. But if you are truly interested in a more natural experience, you can have that too.