Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Frustrated Trail Advocates Launch Rogue Experiment on the Dunes

Dennis Mayo of McKinleyville sits horseback while Ray Reel
of Manila pounds wooden stakes into the sand.
Yesterday afternoon, a small group of people, two horses and a dog hiked along the sandy path from the Manila Community Center across the rolling dunes to the ocean. When they reached the front line of dunes, where vegetation peters out and the beach slopes down to the coastline, two men began shoving and hammering wooden slats into the sand. - Ryan Burns/North Coast Journal

Before long they had several dozen of the shims standing upright in the valley between two dunes. The planks looked like tiny frontier grave crucifixes waiting for their crossbeams. Before they left, they shoved more planks into the sand of an adjacent valley.

The group was attempting a bit of guerrilla dune restoration, using an unauthorized “bio-mimicry” technique they’d learned about ◼ online. The slats, the men explained, are supposed to mimic dune vegetation by catching wind-blown sand and allowing it to accumulate at their bases.

...Here’s the briefest of backgrounds: The men, including Uri Driscoll, Bill Weigle, Dennis Mayo and Ray Reel, are avid horsemen and trail-access advocates who for years now have been at odds with various dune management/restoration agencies. (For more detail ◼ see Heidi Walters’ cover story from April 2011.) They argue that the 30-year, multi-agency campaign to remove European beach grass (Ammophila arenaria) is a fool’s errand that’s only serving to destabilize the dunes — wiping out their favorite horse trails in the process. They hope that their experiment, which they planned to announce today before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, will reopen a debate on best practices — a debate, in their opinion, that they and their ilk have been systematically left out of.....


As she stated in her May 21 “My Word” piece for the Times-Standard, Vander Meer said that dunes are naturally mobile and dynamic, so she’d be curious to see the experiment sites, which the experimenters described as “blow-outs.” She added that her organization and others in the Humboldt Dunes Cooperative work with scientists and other experts, and while she’s skeptical about the wood-slat technique, she won’t rule it out. ”I think we’re always open to new knowledge, facts and information.”

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