Dune project moves forward

Lordship Improvement Association member Christine Doolan drags a tree along Russian Beach on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Members of the Lordship Improvement Association (LIA) were hard at work this weekend, using discarded Christmas trees to help build up the sand dunes at Russian Beach. Work on the project began on Saturday, Jan. 12, and according to LIA President Richard Diedrichsen, the morning was a resounding success.

“We had 28 volunteers, and about a dozen well-wishers who strolled by with their children and dogs,” Diedrichsen said.

He credits Stratford Public Works Administrator Brian Carey with helping to facilitate the project. “In our environmental initiatives, we don’t make a move without consulting with Brian Carey,” Diedrichsen said.

Members of the town’s Public Works Department, led by foreman Chad Esposito, delivered the Christmas trees to the work site on Russian Beach at the foot of Laurel Street earlier last week. Diedrichsen estimates that 178 discarded Christmas trees were used to get the project started.

Members of the Lordship Improvement Association with Troop 72 Boy Scouts stand on Russian Beach on Saturday, Jan. 12. (Photo by John Hewitt)

“Everyone pitched in dragging the trees down to the beach; the Boy Scouts of Troop 72, under the leadership of John Guglielmoni, were instrumental in taking the pressure off the adults,” Diedrichsen said.

The idea behind the project is to protect Russian Beach from future storm damage and beach erosion by using the trees to build up a natural barrier against tidal surge. The LIA consulted with landscape architect Kate Throckmorton of Environmental Land Solutions in Norwalk, who said she first heard of the technique from Harry Yamalis at the Connecticut Deparment of Energy and Environmental Protection.

After dragging the trees down to the beach, according to Diedrichsen, the next step was placing the trees along the edge of the grassland, nestled in the vertical drop caused by the recent storms, then binding them together with twine, and finally driving two-foot wooden stakes every 10 feet to secure them.

“This technique is generally successful only where there is a vertical drop; it doesn’t seem to work well where the sand is smooth or gently curved. So there’s a large part of Russian Beach (the western half) that does not qualify for this treatment,” said Diedrichsen.

Diedrichsen estimates it took a mere two hours to cover 400 feet of beach with trees. He credits the enthusiasm and excellent turnout of the volunteers with achieving those results. Plans are for completing the project this coming weekend.

“We agreed to return Saturday to complete the last 200 feet,” Diedrichsen said. “The town will supply us with another 50 or 60 trees. After that, we will monitor the results periodically through the winter and spring, perhaps filling in any gaps that the waves or weather produce, and adding more stakes at points of stress.”

Diedrichsen expects positive results. “This technique has proven successful in replenishing the dunes in places like the Delmarva Peninsula, and as I recall, the Florida coast.”

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