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Partners join forces on Bennett Beach restoration project

NATURAL RESOURCES — Pictured, from left: Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Mark Gaston, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, New York Outreach Coordinator for the Alliance for the Great Lakes Nate Drag and Executive Vice President and General Counsel for HSBC North America Holdings Stuart Alderoty review the planting of beach grass at Bennett Beach, as part of the restoration project. Photo submitted by Peter Anderson.
ANGOLA — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was joined by Deputy Parks Commissioner Dan Glowacki, County Forester Ed Kowalski, members of the county department of environment and planning, Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District Field Manager Mark Gaston and representatives from the Erie County Water Quality Committee, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and HSBC North America Holdings at Bennett Beach in Evans, to take part in a restoration project to beautify the beach and park, while helping protect it.

Bennett Beach is a passive park owned and operated by Erie County, consisting of approximately 50 acres of Lake Erie beachfront, with some of the last remaining natural sand dunes in the area, as well as open parkland space and woodlands. Big Sister Creek bisects the property.

“This restoration project is a tremendous way to care for and enhance Bennett Beach and the surrounding parkland and I thank our partners and volunteers who came together and worked so hard at this beautification effort,” Poloncarz said. “Not only will this project help to create a more beautiful beach and park for all users, it will help to protect this natural asset into the future.”

Improvements already begun at the Bennett Beach site include the creation of a low-mow area, parking lot improvements and the demolition of an old municipal bath house wall that was an obstruction.

On Sept. 16, more than 100 volunteers planted beach grass to stabilize a windward portion of the beach’s eroding sand dune, planted dogwood and streamco willow trees to stabilize the bank of Big Sister Creek along the back side of the dune, removed Japanese knotweed from the area, planted wildflowers and installed bluebird boxes in the low-mow area to improve habitat and planted trees in the park area for increased shade.

“Protecting the Great Lakes is an all hands on deck effort,” said Nate Drag, New York outreach coordinator for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “I am pleased to have a business partner in HSBC that recognizes the immense value that Lake Erie brings to the Buffalo area. Bennett Beach in Erie County is a place where volunteers can see the impacts of restoring the Great Lakes, firsthand.”

The project is a combined effort between the Erie County Parks Department, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, HSBC, Erie County Soil and Water District, Erie County Water Quality Committee and the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance.

“This project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through regional cooperation,” said Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning Maria Whyte. “LEWPA, which includes representatives from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties, is bringing communities together to protect our vital Great Lakes resource.”

The Erie County Water Quality Committee devoted $400 for the purchase of beach grass and wildflower seed; the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District provided the dogwood and streamco willows from its plantation, as well as bluebird boxes and staff time for the volunteer effort. The Erie County Parks Department provided labor and equipment, including a vehicle to haul away the knotweed and the Great Lakes Alliance provided coordination for the event and secured a grant from Home Depot, for additional supplies.

The LEWPA obtained $1,150 in grant funds from Scott Naturals, to support the tree plantings, while HSBC contributed $1,500, to add additional shrub plantings.
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