Warmer winter weather washes away part of beach at Northern Bay Sands
Carbonear council has resumed plowing a nameless service road. The move is seen as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution can be found.
BY DANIEL MACEACHERN
A warmer winter might be welcomed by many Conception Bay North residents snowmobile enthusiasts aside but it has wreaked havoc on a popular summer spot, the beach at Northern Bay Sands.
Chris Mullaly, the owner of Northern Bay’s Icebreaker Lounge, said he’d heard all of the sand had been washed away, but once he’d had a look for himself, he said it wasn’t as bad as he’d initially thought.
“A lot of the sand is gone,” he said, noting that there’s been a lot of damage down to the barrier that prevents sand from moving too far from the water. “ That’s all tore up, and there’s a lot of rock up on the grass, and there’s a lot of debris all over, a lot of rock and a lot of sand gone.”
There’s a lot of rock mixed in with the sand too, said Mullaly. “A lot of rock has washed up too,” he said, noting that the waves usually bring in sand but this winter has also deposited a lot of stones on the beach. “ There’s a lot of rock in the sand itself, where the beach is.”
Despite the damage done to the beach, Mullaly said it should be OK once a good cleanup is done to it, albeit one that will require a lot more work than in previous years.
“It’s a lot of cleanup, I think,” he said. “ That’s privately owned too, now.”
Mullaly praised the work the current owner, Neil O’Leary, has done in making the beach a popular family destination.
“He’s doing a great job, and he’s opened up different areas for more campsites, so I think he’s doing a great job down there, but like I said he’s going to be faced with a lot of problems down there this year.”
O’Leary did not respond to a request made for an interview to discuss the damage to the beach.
Norm Catto, a professor in Memorial University’s geography department who specializes in beach erosion, said that although he hadn’t seen how much of the sand was washed away, there has been erosion in other parts of the Avalon peninsula, and the warmer winter weather this year was likely the reason for the sand lost at Northern Bay.
Some sand is washed away every year, but sand is also deposited on the beach every year as well.
“Northern Bay Sands is exposed to waves from the northeast,” said Catto.
“ What often happens is that we get storms that remove parts of the front of the beach system. In a normal winter, Northern Bay Sands is ice covered. We’ve got an ice foot on the beach so it’s completely frozen, and we’ve got snow in behind. But in a winter like the one we’ve had up until a few days ago, where we had warmer weather and not so much snow ... that would mean then that the beach would be exposed.”
Catto said when strong winds come in from the northeast and there’s nothing to hold the beach in position, then there’s a lot more erosion than normal.
He noted that sand washed away is probably sloshing around just offshore.
“It’s probably not gone. It probably is offshore, and over time it will move back onto the beach system,” he said. “I don’t think that you’d be in a situation where the sand would never come back and that Northern Bay Sands would just turn into a rock platform.
“ The offshore of Northern Bay Sands is quite shallow, so sand that is swept off the beach will generally come back; it’s just a question of how long it’s going to take to come back.”
Catto also said the relatively short beach season in Newfoundland gives its beaches more time to recover each year.
“Our tourist season is so condensed, compared to what you would have further south, that the beach gets a breathing space.”
However, Catto noted Northern Bay Sands has been washed away before. According to local history, the professor said, the beach was washed away during a major hurricane in 1775. “ That caused a lot of damage at Northern Bay Sands and killed a number of people.”
Northern Bay Sands has been a popular summer destination for people from the capital city and all over the Avalon Peninsula and beyond for as long as anyone can remember. For many years it was operated by the province as part of the provincial park system, until the provincial government decided to privatize most of its parks. Northern Bay was among the parks, which were taken over and operated by the private sector.