$500K in P.E.I. beach damage from winter storm

Parks Canada will spend about $500,000 repairing storm-damaged beaches on P.E.I. this spring.

Parks Canada will spend $500,000 repairing storm-damaged beaches on P.E.I. this spring.

Staff members have been surveying the destruction caused by the winter storm surges and working out how to fix it. 

"The total cost of damages is in the order of $500,000," assets manager Bill Courtney said Friday. "That's a combination of ramps and stairs, trails, campgrounds and some ... stone at Covehead Bridge."

All of the access points were damaged. Cavendish and Brackley beaches were hit the worst, as they had the largest structures, and it's going to cost the most to repair them.

About nine metres of shoreline were lost during the storm and another nine metres of dunes were eroded away.

"With significant changes in the shoreline, and significant erosion, we're having to modify stairs, modify ramps, modify boardwalks to match the new coast," Courtney explained. 

New $100,000 stairs swept away

At Shaws Beach, the staircase had to be rebuilt after the old one was found dislodged a kilometer down the beach. It was a similar story at Brackley Beach.   

"We're going to have to do a significant repair there, because some of the supporting posts were undermined and collapsed under the storm," Courtney said.

The wheelchair ramp and stairs were replaced last year, but will have to be replaced again at a cost of about $100,000.

Dune erosion was especially severe at Shaws Beach.

"It almost looks likes you could just take a butter knife and cut the dunes right along," said Rick Hawkins of Parks Canada. "It was a pretty significant event."

Hawkins said dunes always erode over the winter and then build back up over the summer, but the dunes lost 10 times more sand than usual last winter.

Hawkins said it was too early to tell how vulnerable birds like swallows or piping plovers will be affected.

"We do have ongoing monitoring and will look at that as time goes on to see to see what happens," he said.

Parks Canada asked people to stay off the dunes until repairs are done to avoid further damage. Most repairs are nearing completion, but some beaches, such as Brackley, won't be open until June.