Great lakes ~ Great beaches & Coasts
The sandy beaches that dot our Great Lakes coastlines are our community treasures. They help create our sense of place, form part of our community personality, drive our local economies and provide for a healthy active lifestyle. A good day at the beach connects people to the Great Lakes, and forms an important part of their perception of the state of the lakes. That is vitally important in building public support and interest in investments to protect the Lakes.
From a municipal point of view, beaches provide important social, environmental and economic benefits to our communities.
Beaches support over 8 million swimmers in the US alone and an estimated 80 million swimming days. Beaches and coasts are home to unique plants and animals, and provide habitat for birds and fish. Many fish species spend some portion of their lifecycle along the coast or beach.
Economically, beaches provide large direct and indirect benefits to communities and regions. Estimates vary, but the value of recreation from US beaches is estimated at $800 million annually and about $200 to $250 million annually in Canada.
Due to the recreational and economic value of beaches to people and their communities, recognition of their unique importance is growing. This has led to dedicated efforts to improve the state of our beaches, both in terms of public health, environmental improvements and the quality of people's beach experience as a whole. In addition to improving beach facilities and improving water quality at the shoreline, many of our member GLSLCI cities are pioneering new and innovative beach monitoring and management methods.
Unlike in the U.S., where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dedicated programs and direct federal funding for beaches, Canada does not have a comparable focal point for beaches support. Beach managers are often operating on their own and must navigate their way through multiple regulatory agencies. At an April 2010 beach and coast workshop, over 90 experts stated that one of the major barriers to improving Ontario's beaches and coasts was lack of coordination and communication.
That is why the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative has launched the Great Lakes Great Beaches Initiative. On June 1, 2010 at the Great Lakes Mayors and Ministers Summit, hosted by the Cities Initiative and the Government of Ontario, mayors and provincial ministers committed to work together to protect the health of beaches and coastal areas. Together they will create a new provincial-municipal beach and coastal area network to bring experts together to share information and best management practices.
The new provincial and municipal network will bring mayors, public beach and coast managers and experts together with provincial officials with direct responsibilities for beaches and coasts. The Cities Initiative is acting as a catalyst to improve beaches and coasts and to provide support for those responsible for beaches and coasts.
The Great Lakes, Great Beaches Initiative will:
• Connect beach and coastal managers and groups with each other and with their counterparts around the lakes and across the border to learn from each other, relay success stories, and share beach and coastal management techniques and innovations
• Provide a forum for beach managers and provincial officials responsible for aspects of beach and coastal management in Ontario to discuss issues of mutual interest
• Act as a bulletin board for current beach activities and events
• Host training and webinars on beach and coastal topics of interest
• Work together to increase beach and coastal promotion
Work under the Great Lakes, Great Beaches Initiative is already underway:
1. The Cities Initiative is actively engaged in U.S. Great Lakes beach work including the Regional Collaboration Strategy- click here
2. The Cities Initiative, along with other groups, helped to promote a beach survey tool to identify and better understand sources of contamination to beaches- click here
3. The Cities Initiative participates in the International Joint Commission work on beaches- click here
4. The Cities Initiative and the Great Lakes Commission developed a summary of the economic benefits of Great Lakes beaches –click here
5. The Cities Initiative co-hosted with the Province of Ontario a Great Lakes Beach and Coast Workshop in April 2010- click here
6. The Cities Initiative is collecting and sharing beach and coastal success stories - click here
We welcome ideas and feedback on the Great Lakes Great Beaches Initiative. If you are interested in learning more and participating in this Great Lakes, Great Beaches work, please contact the Cities Initiative: Melissa Soline, 1-312-201-4517 firstname.lastname@example.org