Teaching by Example: Resilience Lessons from Our Most Crowded Coastline

According to an in depth article on www.fastcoexist.com, there are lessons on resilience to be learned from the country’s most crowded coastline – New York.

The article takes us back to Hurricane Sandy, and how past initiatives helped guard against the storm’s effects.

Twenty years before Hurricane Sandy hit, some residents of New York City’s Rockaways started planting trees and beach grass on a beach dune. This started with one man’s involvement with the local Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association, and he gathered thirty-five volunteers to help with the planting.

Once the plants had grown, NYC GreenThumb kept them watered through their first summer, and the plants began to thrive. The beach grass in particular, grew by itself and spread.

According to the article, today, that dune is covered in a variety of plants, including bayberry, beach plum, autumn olive, wild rose and Japanese black pine 15 feet tall. This is considered a secondary dune; the primary dune before it is covered in beach grass and between the two lies the boardwalk.

 

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Photo credit - LOCAL OFFICE LANDSCAPE
(Photo from the Fast CoMPANy article)

This graphic depicts a plan to convert part of the Shore Front Parkway to a forested double-dune system, which would buffer the effects of storm surges and rising seas.

When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, that double-dune system seemed to help guard against the damage.

This kind of planning, which involves working with nature, is part of a soft approach some believe is the way of the future. It could be the way to design future coastlines and survive rising sea levels and natural disasters in coastal communities.

The article explains this idea as proposed by Walter Meyer and Jennifer Bolstad, described as the husband-and-wife team of Local Office Landscape & Urban Design and on-and-off Rockaway residents.

Their goal is to transform the Shore Front Parkway in Rockaway Beach into a double-dune forest system, as seen in the photo above.

“This is a story about trees,” Meyer stated in the article.

“It’s less about the dunes than what the dunes support, this coastal forest. It’s a living armor.”

Meyer explains this type of approach is being seen around the world.

“The Dutch don’t build dykes anymore, they’re building sand bars and sand dunes. The Japanese are building forests. The Australians are building reefs,” said Meyer.

Rather than following the classic hard approach, building structures like jetties and floodgates with manmade materials, the idea is to take a soft (but still effective) approach, and build natural systems of defense. Another element to this nature-based approach involves working underwater.

Landscape architect Kate Orff was also quoted in the article. She believes in the power of oysters – oyster reefs that is.

Her proposal involves helping to create places for oyster larvae to grow. The larvae need to be given something to attach themselves to, and then they take it from there. Orff proposes to lower cages into the water off of piers in the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. The cages will have lots of fuzzy rope in them, giving the oysters a place to grow. The Gowanus Canal is a highly polluted waterway, so the cages keep people from trying to eat the oysters because they won’t be suitable for human consumption for years.

Not only would the oysters help filter the water, gradually cleaning it, their shells also would create a reef. The oysters grow on top of each other over time, creating a natural reef which could help protect the city from storm surges in the future. The project is called Oyster-tecture.

“There is literally nothing that could have stopped the Sandy surge,” Orff said in the article, referring to the 14-foot storm surge the hurricane brought to New York.

“But hard and soft infrastructure solutions could be combined in a win-win scenario that would revitalize the harbor landscape, clean the water and begin to address coastal protection,” said Orff.

Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, gave some closing remarks for the article.

“Constructing human habitats that work with nature rather than against it will have the greatest benefit for people and nature,” said Sanderson.

“Hurricane Sandy was information encoded in a storm. If people begin to see the nature of our place, then they can begin to see the landscape strategies that history suggests are protective and adaptive over the long run.”

Perhaps this is the way to build a more resilient future. Definitely a lot of food for thought.

 

For a more detailed read, see the original article here: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3028849/lessons-on-resilience-from-the-countrys-most-crowded-coastline