2015-05-15 / Community

New battle emerges at Goose Rocks Beach

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Employees from Liberty Mutual plant posts for a new kayak rack to be installed at Goose Rocks Beach during the company’s fourth annual “Serve with Liberty” volunteer day with the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust May 8. KCT hopes the new racks will help prevent kayakers from hauling their transports onto the endangered sea grasses. (Lisa Linehan courtesy photo) Employees from Liberty Mutual plant posts for a new kayak rack to be installed at Goose Rocks Beach during the company’s fourth annual “Serve with Liberty” volunteer day with the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust May 8. KCT hopes the new racks will help prevent kayakers from hauling their transports onto the endangered sea grasses. (Lisa Linehan courtesy photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — There’s a new battle emerging for access to Goose Rocks Beach, but this time everyone agrees on who the interlopers are, and why they have to go.

That’s because the invaders are invasive plants such as oriental bittersweet and rosa rugosa, the latter better known as “beach roses.”

“Those are beautiful, but they do really tend to take over,” said Lisa Linehan, associate director of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust (KCT).

On Friday, May 8, Linehan was busy leading a team of 50 volunteers from Liberty Mutual offices in Kennebunk and across Maine and New Hampshire in their fourth annual “Serve with Liberty” event.

Each spring, Liberty Mutual workers help to clean up the 2,200-plus acres managed by the trust. This year, special projects included installation of posts on Goose Rocks Beach, which KCT will use in the coming weeks to mount kayak racks. That, said Linehan, will hopefully keep recreationalists from dragging their kayaks up onto the dune grass.

That help is important, Linehan notes, because, despite the number of acres it manages, KCT has just three paid employees.

“Volunteers are absolutely crucial to us,” said Linehan.

Now, an even more important volunteer opportunity is coming up Saturday, May 16. On that day, KCT is hoping to get volunteers to help clear the trust’s beach lots of the invasive species.

“The bittersweet, especially, is a problem down there,” Linehan said. “They start off as small vines, but in some areas down at the beach, they’re like trunks, and they just squeeze out everything else.”

“Non-native, invasive plants, although once considered attractive, do not have the natural ‘checks and balances’ of native species and crowd out, shade, and in some cases — as with bittersweet — smother native plants and trees that are critical food and shelter for many native species of birds, insects, and wildlife,” Mary Ellen Lemay said.

A resident of Goose Rocks Beach, Lemay also is a member of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Department.

“By aggressively removing, controlling regrowth, and replacing the invasives with native plants, we will take important positive steps to restore healthy habitats to our landscape and, in turn, bring back the species that require them to survive, all while simultaneously create a living shoreline that protects property in a beautiful and functional way,” she said.

Saturday’s work will include temporary removal of the rock wall across King’s Highway from The Tides Inn, using an excavator, to allow better access to the bittersweet now growing through the rocks. The wall will be repaired at the end of the day — crews will be on site from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. — and, eventually, native plants such as dune grass, beach pea and bayberry will be purchased from Pierson Nurseries in Biddeford and planted to help restore the dunes, with an eye to attracting monarch butterflies, migrating birds and other pollinating species.

Work will take place on 10 lots at the end of Proctor Avenue, four lots to the east of the avenue, and six to the west. Eight lots are owned by KCT, one by the town of Kennebunkport, and one by a private owner. The town also owns the right-ofway along King’s Highway and work will take place there as well.

Although invasives are not limited to these areas, Linehan said a “particularly bad section” exists from Dinghy Point eastward to the intersection of Broadway. The total area to be worked on is roughly 10,000 square feet. The goal, Linehan said, is to start with this area and then monitor the site with an eye toward working with other private property owners, in hopes of controlling invasives on those lots as well.

“Controlling it now before it gets out of control is really important, but this is the first invasives removal project we’ve ever done, so we’re not sure what to expect,” she said. “This is a multi-year effort. Right now, education is really important because a lot of people, even property owners on the beach, have no idea these are invasive species, or how harmful they can be to the local ecology.”

KCT has obtained the necessary permits for the plant removal from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Department of Environmental Protection. The plants to be removed were identified last fall by Nancy Olmstead, a DEP invasive plant biologist. Some plants will be burned — a fire permit has been obtained by the town — while care will be taken to monitor for piping plovers, although Linehan says the endangered shorebird has not been known to nest in that area in recent years.

According to Linehan, the cleanup effort is one positive outcome of recent legal wrangling over public access to parts of Goose Rocks Beach.

“We were involved with that. There was a group of people who came together to try and negotiate what we could do to not have lawsuits down there, to find solutions that would work for everybody. Out of that, a lot of the front lot beach owners signed on to an agreement for public use, and that resulted in creation of the Goose Rocks Advisory Committee.”

KCT is working with that committee’s natural resources subcommittee to plan and organize the invasives cleanup project. At its April 28 meeting, Kennebunkport’s Beach Advisory Committee voted to approve spending $5,000 — half of the project cost — from the Goose Rocks Beach Fund. The town’s board of selectmen is expected to vote on approval of that expenditure at its May 14 meeting.

However, either way, work is expected to go forward, KCT funding its half of the project from its annual budget.

“All we really need to know now is how many people are coming to help, so we have enough grub to feed everybody,” said Linehan.

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