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Effects of erosion more prevalent on Collingwood's shores this year

More sinkholes and signs of erosion are appearing along Collingwood's shoreline, particularly after a windy winter storm.

Orange pylons and barricades put up by the town of Collingwood parks department demarcate sinkholes and washouts along the shore of Sunset Point.

Lapping waves have reached above boulders placed as revetments, a tree leans over the waters’ edge, most of its roots exposed to the incoming whitecaps - all the result of erosion along one of Collingwood’s most popular summer spots.

Betty Wallwork, a long-time Collingwood resident and daily visitor to Sunset Point (even in the winter) with her dog Lanei, reached out to the town with her concerns about the erosion she’s seen.

“Sunset Point should be the jewel of Collingwood, but it’s being eroded and destroyed more each year,” said Wallwork.

She said she’s seen the town apply what she sees as “band-aid” solutions by filling in sinkholes and adding more stones when others wash away.

“Nobody has the money to do it properly,” said Wallwork as she walked along the shoreline surveying the damage. “High winds and storms have caused serious underground erosion.”

According to Dean Collver, director of Parks, Recreation, and Culture for Collingwood, the erosion along Collingwood’s nearly 50 km of shoreline (that’s including all the twists and turns) has escalated with the rising water levels in Georgian Bay.

“The water levels are up significantly over the last four or five years,” said Collver. “The conditions acting on the shoreline are different because of that. Water levels, if not the primary cause, are a major contributing factor to increased erosion.”

He said the past two years have yielded more sinkhole effects along the water’s edge than usual, but the water levels have been high for two years.

“If we wanted to make sure nothing happens again, we could wrap Sunset Point in a big wall, but taxpayers wouldn’t like that cost,” said Collver.

That trend toward more visible signs of erosion isn’t limited to Sunset Point. Collver said the town has noticed erosion at Millennium Park, and Hens and Chickens Island is actually an island now, where four years ago, it was more of a peninsula.

The high water levels have also caused flooding on in-land trails and boardwalks.

“We’ve been backfilling as best we can, knowing it’s a temporary solution,” said Collver.

Collver said the work thus far has been reactive, but the town hired a consulting engineer to study the shoreline this year and come up with a report on options for more permanent solutions to prevent erosion.

Town staff have just received the report from Shoreplan Engineers Limited, and will present it at a council standing committee meeting in the new year, within the first quarter. Following that, it will go to council. From that report, Collver said council and staff can prepare a plan that includes actions and funding.

“Staff will dig into the study to figure out what it is telling us,” said Collver. “We’ve done what we can do without having this information,” said Collver. “We never expected it to be permanent.”

Sunset Point sees thousands of visitors each year, but it hasn’t always been there.

In the early 1970s, the shoreline was just north of St. Lawrence St. According to Collver, there was a deal struck in the mid-1970s with the Ministry of Natural Resources to use materials from another project in Ontario to create land north of St. Lawrence Street, which later became Sunset Point. Collver said there are legends about where the material came from that formed Sunset Point, but nobody knows for sure. The material was large chunks of concrete, and smaller pieces of stone and concrete to fill in the gaps.

There is no date set for when staff will bring forward the report from the engineers on the town’s shoreline. You can watch the town’s website for agendas for all the upcoming council and committee meetings, and also for further news on the shoreline report.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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