Ocean Beach is quite different to Ettalong foreshore
Members of Council's volunteer Peninsula Dunecare Group, which works on the area between Barrenjoey Rd and Ettalong Point, were interested to read in two articles (pp 10, and 12) in the last Peninsula News (Edition 437, January 29) the views of Matthew Wales, president of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, about the erosion of the dune-front between Ocean Beach Surf Club and Ettalong Point, and his proposed solution: to "bulldoze all the scrub in the dunes and put in a promenade".
He says "most of the population agrees" with that.
This does not sound like the same population that gives us positive comments and thanks for what we are doing as they walk along the footpath past our site, or their indignant feedback on Saturday morning (February 3) about Mr Wales' comments.
Mr Wales erroneously compares this area with the Ettalong Foreshore, part of which has been given a packed-rock wall and "promenading".
However, the two areas are quite different in their aspects and therefore the effect on them of wind, waves and currents.
This can easily be seen especially by following the footpath on a day of on-shore southerly wind and surf, from Ocean Beach around Ettalong Point, through the several different aspects, to the comparative calm and shelter of the Ettalong shore.
While erosion of the front of the Ocean Beach dunes has been severe south of the sandbag wall at Barrenjoey Rd, the only section of our area's dune restoration to have been "thrown out to sea" (Mr Wales' words) was in 2015 in the part where the sandbag wall now is.
At the time of the east coast low in April that year and the following series of southerly winds and high tides, that site was still an open area with no mature trees or shrubs to deeply bind the sand and help buffer the wind-tunnel effect of Barrenjoey Rd from the onshore gale and seas.
This was worsened by an access way facing directly into the wind, with soft sand corners on the beach that were swiftly destroyed by the tidal current and surf, so the adjacent dune collapsed.
The top and much of the front of the sandbag wall is now well-vegetated and sand covers the base.
The rest of our area north from there has stayed largely intact.
The dune vegetation is a windbreak for the footpath and road, helps trap, settle and hold the sand, and with its dense foliage and nectar-rich flowers and seeds, is a nesting and foraging habitat for blue wrens, Willy wagtails, wattlebirds and others, including occasionally whipbirds, and is a stop-off place for visitors such as yellow-tailed black cockatoos that feed on the cones of the coastal banksias.
It is also habitat for a variety of lizards, crabs, insects and spiders, even acting as a refuge for a lost ring-tailed possum to build a nest.
Thus, in a thin and fragile green line between the increasingly-urbanised Peninsula and the ocean, the dune vegetation forms a vital wildlife corridor linking Blackwall Mt and Bouddi National Park with the bushland of south-west Umina and Brisbane Water National Park.
Out on the beach people and dogs enjoy a leash-free area in a beautiful environment.
Is all this not "good use for the community"?
"Promenading" along the Ettalong reserve one sees: parched grass, pigeons, mallards, seagulls and people.
In the area between our and the Umina Dunecare Groups' sites there is still some lantana and bitou, but bush regeneration methods are designed to avoid habitat disturbance and further erosion, so removal of such weeds and replanting suitable native species is done gradually in a planned and careful way and when volunteer numbers allow.
Along the footpath on our site, mulching then planting of suitable low-growing native species will begin in March.
This and the new angled access ways will, if their sand-fencing is maintained and not vandalised, help keep sand off the footpath.
The ground-cover succulent, pigface, which now covers much of the sandbag wall, is also draping over the low, recently-eroded sand front in places, ready to cover the returning sand as the beach builds up again beneath it.
The Coastal Zone Management Plan for the entire Umina-Ocean Beach shoreline addresses the aspects of safety, stability and access without the need for bulldozing and promenading, and the proposed sand movement studies will increase understanding of the continuing natural impacts on, and management of, this beautiful place.
Email, 8 Feb 2018
Kristine Martin, Blackwall