Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

North Beach. Raked and Raped.

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In a recent blog “SOUTHAMPTON SUMMER – SO FAR,” I spoke of my town’s North Beach as ‘derelict.’ A reader sent me the following response:

This is a “natural” beach on the north shore of the town, much admired for its rugged beauty, especially by city cyclists and walkers aching for a brief glimpse of reality.

I apologized for the label I had given my favourite part of the shoreline.

It is indeed a rugged place. Winter winds bring in massive tree roots, logs and detritus and bury them under the ice and snow mounds. Then, as the spring melt progresses, nature reveals her art. The reality of her collage never fails to impress. Solitude is only broken by the sound of wind and waves crashing over the driftwood. This driftwood acts as a barrier against the surf, holding back the breakers, stopping them from carrying away the dunes, protecting beach sand.

A massive concrete pier – the northern arm of the harbour – reaches out into the lake forcing the swells to wash over it and sending what’s left of their spent force to the beach. 

It is a wonderful, wild, untouched place to walk.  The sunsets are breathtaking mainly because they don’t draw the crowds encountered at the Big Flag.

Then, the same reader sent me another email. It was upsetting:

The dozers and backhoes have arrived at the north beach and have begun the “cleanup.” Loads of driftwood are on their way to the dump. The North Beach, at last, is losing its charm.

Photo by G.R Schuett – Deere on the Beach

What I saw when I got there was even more alarming. Most of the driftwood was gone. A dozer was scouring the sand lifting giant grey tree trunks and piling them by the rocks. A dump truck waited to cart them away. The beach was CLEAN.

Waves freely swept the beach carrying sand back into the lake. Swales ran unencumbered. One had to navigate small ponds. Treads and tire tracks were so deep that they couldn’t be washed away. They ruthlessly tamed the rugged naturalness of the North Shore.

Why? Between Southampton and Port Elgin there are enough beaches to satisfy everyone. Why couldn’t they leave this one alone?

I searched the wonderfully informative and sympathetic Saugeen Times ( for answers and found this editorial from July 31, 2008:

The Southampton beach is once again being raked despite all the supporting evidence that it is the worst possible human action that can be taken on a lakefront beach area. 

What began as a raking on the main beach has now extended beyond the dunes leaving the beach in a state of ruin.

At the Coastal Conference held recently in Port Elgin, an expert in the field of beach conservation explained that the worst possible influence of man on a beach is that of raking and, in the process, destroying the fragile eco-system that exists.

Southampton was renowned and recognized for its environmental eco-system on the beach.  The beach area, with its preservation of beach grasses and dunes was lauded as a forerunner in environmental measures…today, it is being eroded, raked, and raped… and for what?

 The Town is now trying to desperately save the Port Elgin beach while the once-praised Southampton beach is being destroyed.

Our natural attractions are supposedly being made more attractive…to their own detriment. None of this makes sense to me. Like Joni Mitchell said:

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!”

But, I have faith in mother nature. The winds of winter will come and bring the diftwood back to the beach. Spring will show us a new collage. North beach will be restored…and not by the hand of man.





Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

August 9, 2008 at 4:11 PM

Posted in Home Town, thoughts, Writing

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