Volunteers converge on Walnut Beach to plant beach grass

More than 75 people showed up at Walnut Beach Sunday morning to help plant beach grass along the boardwalk to combat erosion.
After a few minutes of instruction from Milford Open Space Manager Steve Johnson, the volunteers grabbed sections of beach grass, dug holes in the sand and planted staggered rows.
“This year we’re planting 6,000 beach grass stems along the boardwalk area to help protect the sand from blowing up on the boardwalk,” Johnson said. “And it’s also going to help add some additional resilience measures if we get some really high tides and wave action.”
This is the third year for the project, which is funded by a Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) grant, plus a United Illuminating Co. donation.
On Sunday, beach grass was planted to create a five to six foot buffer along the boardwalk at the eastern portion of the boardwalk toward Silver Sands State Park, from Nettleton Creek to an area with existing vegetation.
The beach grass roots are expected to grow down three feet, which will help anchor the sand. And as the grass grows to about two feet tall above the sand, it will help prevent sand from blowing onto the boardwalk.
“It will probably take two to three years to get fully established,” said Janet McAllister, chairman of Milford’s Conservation Commission.
An increase in the number of storms has led to more erosion at the beach, McAllister said, adding that planting the beach grass is aesthetically smart because it looks good and environmentally smart because it naturally combats erosion.
Sunday’s volunteers included Milford residents, including Mayor Ben Blake and his family, Walnut Beach residents, and a host of individuals and families.
Max Seufert-Youngling, 9, was working alongside his mother, Anne, and his siblings Otto and Anja, both 6.
“I like helping the beach,” Max said, explaining that he also does this kind of volunteer work through Scouting.
Stephanie Bahramian came all the way from New Britain to volunteer. A member of the UConn Extension Master Gardener program, Bahramian said she does this kind of work often and thinks it’s great to venture out of her own neighborhood to work with others.
“We need to connect the different regions of Connecticut a little better,” she said. Teaming up with others to help the environment creates that connection, she added.
Mary Tesla, a local Girl Scout leader, joined the planting effort for a number of reasons. Tesla lives nearby and said, “This is protecting my backyard.”
This was the largest number of beach grass stems planted at Walnut Beach so far, Johnson said after the volunteers had left Sunday.
Later this spring, he plans to plant dune shrubs and perennial native plants at Walnut Beach using the same CIRCA grant and UI donation that funded the beach grass planting. More beach grass is also planned in select areas, Johnson said.
He indicated a ramp in another area of Walnut Beach that has up to 16 inches of sand covering it, and which will benefit from sand stabilizing beach grass.