Dunes Prevented Severe Erosion at Stratford Point

The dune at Stratford Point before the storm, protected by fencing and with its vegetation in place. Photo by Twan Leenders/Copyright Connecticut Audubon Society.

November 2012 – When Hurricane Sandy hit, the dunes we constructed last year at Stratford Point to control erosion did their job, protecting the point from a storm surge that might have inundated an area extending well beyond our coastal restoration project.

Built of long, geo-textile tubes filled with sand and soil, and covered with more sand and soil, the dunes stretched for 900 feet along north cove and were designed to stabilize the point, the shoreline of which had receded by about 100 feet over the previous decade. Stratford Point covers about 40 acres – 28 upland and 12 intertidal.

The geo-textile tubes held fast and the point suffered virtually no erosion during Sandy – with one exception: the sand and soil that had covered the dunes themselves.

Sandy washed it all away, exposing the tubes. With the sand and soil went 38,000 newly-planted beach grass and switchgrass plants, as well as other vegetation that had taken root during the spring and summer of 2012.

The dunes are a key part of our whole-ecosystem approach to restoring Stratford Point. With the support of the DuPont Corp., which owns the land, we will be bringing in more sand and soil to cover the tubes again, and then replanting in the spring.

The storm approaching. Photo courtesy of Rory Parcell.

For most of the 20th century Stratford Point was the home of the Remington Arms Gun Club and was used for skeet and trap shooting, which left it and the surrounding marshes contaminated with lead shotgun pellets. DuPont funded a cleanup and preserved the point forever with a conservation easement.

We’re involved because DuPont contracted with us to oversee, manage and restore the property. We envision it as a small but important part of the large and rich Housatonic River estuary system, which encompasses more than 1,500 acres of salt marsh, numerous beaches, dunes, sand bars and mud flats, and the mouth of the river itself.

At Stratford Point, our goal is to have a viable dune system along the north cove, a salt marsh and oyster reef in the cove (they are in the early planning stages), and an upland coastal meadow.

Restoration of the meadow, which lies behind the dunes, is an ongoing project. In February 2012, we worked with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to carefully burn most of the upland area, to help control invasive plants.

In May, we collaborated with faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from Sacred Heart University, in

The storm washed away the sand but the foundation held firm, preventing severe erosion of Stratford Point. Photo courtesy of Prof. Mark Beekey, Sacred Heart University.

Fairfield, to plant 96 native trees and shrubs in the upland area behind the dunes, to improve habitat. Sacred Heart students have been monitoring the planting project ever since.

We’re happy to report that the meadow survived the storm. Although sand and soil from the dunes were washed away, they nevertheless stopped the storm from flooding the meadow.

You can find links to other stories about Stratford Point, including the dune construction, controlled burn and tree and shrub plantings, on the Conservation Services page of our website.

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