Every summer we hold our collective breath as we turn into the Baileys Harbor beach parking lot. Maybe this year the pristine sand we grew up with will be returned to its natural glory. But as the matted mess comes into view, our hopes are dashed again.
My Scandinavian roots run deep in Baileys Harbor. My childhood memories include long stretches with my cousins at the beach digging in the sand with makeshift sand toys from our grandma’s kitchen. We’d venture out into the water squeezing the soft sand between our toes. Then, chilled to the core, we’d race up into the hot sand and warm ourselves.
We cherished the natural beauty of Baileys Harbor beach long before we knew to appreciate it. It was paradise. Then, one day, it was gone.
I’m not against improvements. In fact, I tried to embrace the mess as a greater good. Surely the experts at the Ridges knew something about preservation I didn’t. But as I’ve watched the beach grow bonier and more depressing, I’ve wondered: Do they really know better?
So, the other day, I decided to approach an employee at the sanctuary and ask why they planted the seagrass. Their quick response was, “We didn’t plant it. It grew naturally.” But when I questioned the veracity of that statement, their story changed. “We’re protecting the beach from erosion. Without the seagrass, there would be no beach left.”
No beach left? Really?
In all fairness, the expert was probably reciting from some script. Because no one with firsthand knowledge would make such a statement.
Sure, climate and tides change, and wind blows sand. But nature didn’t systematically destroy the natural beauty of Baileys Harbor beach.
I like to believe the best of people. So, I assume whoever made the executive decision to alter the beach meant well. But enough is enough.
People may grumble at the thought of paying for what’s always been free. But if the choice is between a gnarled mess or contributing a few dollars to keep the sand freshly bulldozed, it’s no contest. Tell us where to sign.
Ann C. Sullivan