A group of property owners are putting the beach back in Rye Beach.
In fewer than 18 months, Shawn Bickley said the rubble mounds along the shore of Rye Beach Park will be replaced with smooth sand.
“We’ll be able to walk from grass to sand to go swimming,” said Bickley, Rye Beach Property Owners’ Association trustee.
The scenario he describes has not been possible at Rye Beach in a long time.
There used to be about 200 feet of beach in 1920, said Elinor Parish, secretary of the Owners’ Association. By 1950, only about four feet of it remained.
Since then, the beach disappeared completely and the connecting park has shrunk significantly in size. The private park, owned by the subdivision’s property owners, used to be 15 acres, said Arlene Parker, Owners’ Association treasurer. Today it is down to slightly more than three acres.
“The problem is the lake. It is basically ordinary erosion. The erosion and heavy storms have caused the beach to go, and now it is working on the park,” Parish said.
The pier that was installed in Huron in the 1970s changed the flow of the southern shore, Bickley said. The pier upset the lake’s longshore drift — a geological process by which sand and other sediment is carried along to the shoreline.
“Everyone one from (the park) to the Huron River had beach, but once that mile-pier went in, everybody lost all of it,” Bickley said.
After years of watching the park land dwindle, property owners decided to take action. They are pooling their resources and raising money to pay for a break wall to fight off the erosion. By building a detached break water, the park will be saved and a sandy beach will return.
“We are trying to build a break wall to put in order to keep it from going any further. Hopefully sand will build behind it,” Parish said.
Owners’ Association members say they are hosting fundraisers and accepting donations to raise funds.
The annual Rye Beach Day took place Sunday at the park. Games, food, raffles and entertainment all went toward raising money for the construction project. While the event attracted dozens and dozens of people to the park, organizers said it would have taken hundreds more visitors to raise the sufficient cash.
More events are forthcoming to support the cause.
“We are thinking about a chili cookoff and other things, but this is the event that raises the most money. Obviously we are not getting the outside people here,” Parker said. “We want to get it done now ... but to get down to the bottom line, we may have to go to a bank and borrow money.”
The owner of a marine contracting company, Bickley is doing most of the heavy lifting for the project. He is donating all the labor and has already overseen the installation of about 1,000 tons of stone.
About 800 tons more of core work stands between today and the project’s completion. That will then be capped off with 400-500 tons of armor stone.
Bickley was 4 when his family moved to Rye Beach, and he’s lived there ever since.
He said there was no sand at the shore when he was a child, but he’s thrilled by the prospect children who grow up in the area from now on will have a sandy beach on which to play.
“The break wall is already producing sand,” he said.
If things go according to plan, the little bit of sand that has already returned to Rye Beach will be a lot of sand soon.