Invasive reed taking over beaches
By Libby Peters
Port Elgin Shoreline Beacon
Published November 22, 2006
An alien plant species known as common reed is invading
areas of the Lake Huron shoreline and causing concern
for the Town of Saugeen Shores and its residents.
Citizens and members of the municipality fear the rapid
growth of the reed and the height of its annual shoots
are jeopardizing the beachfront.
An estimated two to three metres of the sandy sections
are being lost per year at the current rate of increase.
Common reed can also reach a height of up to four metres,
raising concern that views of the waterfront could eventually
Director of Community Services, Mike Myatt, said he has
received numerous complaints from citizens concerned with
the appearance of the species, wondering what it is and
how the town is responding.
“Walking the beaches, people see a fairly attractive plant
blowing in the wind and they may not immediately realize
its impact,” he said, explaining that in the last three
to four years, stretches of waterfront 18 metres deep
have been overwhelmed by the plant.
“If this is not addressed in the short term, it will become
a serious problem,” Myatt said.
Left unchallenged, the reed could overtake the majority
of remaining beachfront in the next four years: a single
plant spreads at a rate of one to two metres per year.
Coastal resources manager at the Lake Huron Centre for
Coastal Conservation (LHCCC), Geoff Peach, said although
the reed has been creeping in for some time, in the last
two years it has become more aggressive.
“It’s cutting off movement of sand and the concern is
it could affect the ecology of the dune system,” Peach
Common reed is overtaking plants that are native to the
coastline, Peach said, and natural grasses that should
exist – ones that animal species rely on – are being displaced.
Peach has secured funding from the federal government
to address the situation. He has established three test
sites in Saugeen Shores to investigate options for controlling
the plant. They are located at Goble’s Grove where one
site has been mowed and covered with plastic, leaving
plant materials underneath. A second site at Eidt’s Grove
has been mowed and covered with plastic with plant materials
moved off-site while the third site, also at Eidt’s Grove,
has been mowed with plant materials left on the ground.
These sites will be assessed in early spring to determine
the most appropriate measures for handling the invasive
Peach said through yearly cutting the root system should
starve itself and prevent regeneration of the reed; however,
it could take three to five years before the plants have
disappeared from the waterfront entirely.
Pesticide use is not an option due to the plants’ proximity
to the lake.
Peach said LHCCC is working closely with the municipality
to control the situation, and added that removal of the
plants must be done “carefully and systematically” to
avoid making the situation worse.
Several local organizations have joined together to form
an action committee to outline potential solutions for
the removal of common reed.
Vice president of the Port Elgin/Saugeen Beachers’ Association
Larry Main said the committee hopes to spread the word
about the problem, but added that residents should wait
for instructions before attempting to remove the plant
on their own.
“It’s important to take a uniform approach,” Main said.
He added that several residents have already volunteered
“We’ve got to try to control (common reed) here with one
sole purpose, and that is to preserve the waterline,”
Main and Myatt agree that the community will need to support
the effort come spring by helping to rake and remove the
plant from the three sites.
For now, Myatt said, residents should listen for further
information on a final plan to resolve the
“If we lose our sand beaches to this invasive plant, that’s
a huge blow to Saugeen Shores,” Myatt said. “We’re a tourist
town, and our waterfronts are the jewels of our community.”