Vegetation isn’t the problem with Guemes Channel Trail

The City of Anacortes exploits the good intentions and efforts of volunteer planters by suggesting that planting, replanting and planting again beach grass and other vegetation in the narrow shallow shoreside dirt strip significantly improves the stability of the Guemes Channel Trail against wave erosion (“Guemes Channel Trail repairs could begin later this month”, June 12, page A1).

This cynical “vegetation failure myth” obscures numerous design and construction errors spawned by a general failure to acknowledge obvious site limitations and space constraints or follow acceptable standards for durable shoreline construction. The resulting structures are frequently unstable, excessively failure prone and inadequate to withstand storm wave pressures prevalent on this shoreline. Conceived as a robust contribution to shoreline habitat, the planting strip is just one more flawed and failing part of a project gone awry.

Storm waves loosen and remove rocks from the too steep, inadequately constructed, unstable revetment and erode the incorrectly sized fill from behind the rocks and from under the vegetation strip and trail.

The vegetation and few inches of dirt it is planted in wash away primarily because the rock barrier and fill protecting and supporting the planting strip and trail are eroded by wave energy surging from below, not above the vegetation strip. The continuing presence of vegetation in the planting strip next to a non-eroded trail indicates a locally and temporally stable revetment structure, but is not the cause of that stability.

Volunteer time would be better used to protect exposed tree roots from trampling boots on the new roughed-in only shoreline access “trail” at Kansas Avenue Roadside Park. A protective covering of dirt over roots under a smoothed, leveled gravel trail topping under boots is essential to protecting the trailside trees and finishing this rough dirt track.

Ross O. Barnes, Ph.D., earth science


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