Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunnyside Beach

The original beach was back at the base of the bluff, under what has been the railroad tracks for the past 100 years. This rounded point is originally the byproduct of a gravel loading operation and has had a varied history, including being a sewage treatment plant, before finally becoming a park. Trouble is, big piles of gravel pushed onto the beach tend to wash away. This place ended up with a timber seawall. And two attempts to nourish the beach with sand from the nearby Chambers Creek pit. That washed away, too. But in the mid 1990s the City of Steilacoom removed the old seawall and reconfigured the shoreline. It's been doing remarkably well ever since, although some fine tuning (maintenance, adaptive management) is probably in order.

It's basically an artificial gravel beach, but in one segment demands to protect a fairly high upland area and some popular trees forced a steeper slope than nature could sustain. Wolf Bauer proposed this intriguing double bulkhead approach. I guess it's a variation on a perched beach. The lower bulkhead is perforated, to allow drainage of the upper tier during high water events. The beach may have dropped a little in the last decade, but not very much. I should chase down the measurements I made back then. This is by no means an approach we would recommend widely. I doubt it provides the ecological value of a natural beach - it certainly disconnects the back beach from everything else- but it is a nice alternative to the very high wall that would have been required otherwise. I have never seen anything else like it on the Sound - though I did once see something described on Lake Michigan that looked remotely like this.

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