Seahurst Park Beach Named One of America’s “Best Restored Beaches”

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Burien’s Seahurst Park Beach was recognized Monday (May 24) by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) as a winner of its 2010 Best Restored Beach Award.

The Best Restored Beach Award pertains to Seahurst’s beach area south of the beach parking lot. The City of Burien and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teamed up for the initial phase of the restoration project in 2004, which cost $1.5 million. This work involved removing a 1,400-foot seawall, restoring the beach to its natural state and restoring the marine habitat for federally listed threatened species such as Puget Sound Chinook salmon. In 2008, the City completed $1 million more in habitat and recreation improvements to complete the south shoreline project including rebuilding trails, adding picnic areas, replacing the restroom, and revegetating the shoreline with native plants. The City and Corps are again partnering to restore the beach at the northern section of Seahurst, a project twice the size of the southern beach restoration project. Work is expected to get underway in fall 2011.

Seahurst Park stands in tall company with its Best Restored Beach Award. Only four beaches in the nation are given the award, two on each coast. Other winners include:

  • Seal Beach, California
  • Navarre Beach, Florida
  • Corpus Christi, Texas

According to the ASBPA website:

The Seahurst Park Project is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-funded effort through a Project Partnership Agreement with the city of Burien. Seahurst Park’s South Shoreline restoration project has reinvigorated a park and a fragile ecosystem. The design has restored the physical connection between the natural beach and its sediment supply.

The restored beach supports federally listed threatened and endangered species such as Chinook salmon. Residents of Burien and other communities throughout the region visit Seahurst Park to learn about the environment and enjoy the park’s shorelines. The Corps’ Seattle District has completed a general investigation and feasibility study for Puget Sound restoration.

The project was the first one funded by the Corps’ “Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters” program and has effectively served as a prototype project for addressing many Puget Sound ecosystem restoration issues, including bulkheading and sediment supply.

Illustration of Seahurst Park Beach by Dave Branson.

“We are so proud to have Seahurst Park receive this recognition,” said Mayor Joan McGilton. “Seahurst is the crown jewel of our parks system, and one of the finest waterfront parks in the region. It’s a park people can love and it’s a park that is vital to the ecosystem of Puget Sound.”

The Mayor credited City staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, local and especially national elected officials.

“None of this would have been possible without the help of our congressional delegation in securing funding,” she added.

Federal funding accounted for a large portion of the $2.5 million total cost of the south shoreline project, including $272,000 from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The project was designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and Anchor QEA, Seattle based environmental consulting firm. The beach restoration also was supported by a partnership of 16 cities and King County that is working across city boundaries to restore the lands and waters of southern King County.

One of the primary goals of the restoration project was to help re-establish and enhance the habitat for the threatened Chinook salmon and species they depend on. Restoration of the gravel beach provides a place for forage fish such as sand lance and surf smelt to spawn. These fish species are a primary food source for salmon.

In addition to helping salmon and the Puget Sound ecosystem, Seahurst Park is the most popular recreation and environmental education facility in Burien, and attracts visitors from a large area. Therefore another goal of the project was to improve the shoreline for use by the public for recreation and environmental education programs. Access along the shoreline, and to the beach was improved, and sandy beaches are wider and more useable than before restoration. Picnicking, parking, trails and the restroom have all been improved for the public to enjoy.

Building on success, the City is seeking grants to complete the northern beach restoration project, and has already received grant support from the Washington State Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program for $1.1 million, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for $750,000 and the King Conservation District for $510,000 The 2,865 feet of northern shoreline currently includes a mix of rock and concrete seawalls which will be removed and replaced with sand, gravel, vegetation and other natural features. As with the southern beach project, the goal is to restore natural processes to sustain a naturally functioning park shoreline, and to provide the public with expanded and more accessible beaches.

For the last 40 years, beach restoration has been the preferred method of shore protection in coastal communities on the east, west and Gulf coasts, according to the ASBPA.

Coastal communities have restored more than 370 beaches in the United States, including such iconic beaches as Jones Beach in New York, Ocean City in Maryland, Virginia Beach, Miami Beach, Galveston Island in Texas and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

Coastal communities nominated their projects for consideration in the Best Restored Beach competition, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on the economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community, the short- and long-term success of the restoration project, and the challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.

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3 Responses to “Seahurst Park Beach Named One of America’s “Best Restored Beaches””
  1. To learn more about the restoration effort, readers can view a two-part video at Burien Parks’ YouTube channel:
    Part 1)
    Part 2)

  2. Jim Branson says:

    “The design has restored the physical connection between the natural beach and its sediment supply.”

    The design may have planned to restore that physical connection, but the finished product does not. Instead of removing the bulkhead, they just moved it 30 feet uphill. The judges must not have visited the actual project, or they would have seen what is obvious to anyone that looks.

    The stated purpose of the restoration was to allow sediment to flow in a natural way, to replenish the beach with gravel and sand needed by salmon and other species. Taking out the seawall would have accomplished this if they hadn’t taken the rocks and built a new wall above the road that they like to call a path. What is the purpose of this wall? To hold the hill in place, and to stop the natural flow of sediments. Why would they do this? I don’t know because the Parks Department, the City of Burien, and the Department of Ecology have refused to discuss the issue.

    The road they built was originally supposed to be a trail. They made it the width of a road so they could get trucks in and out, supposedly. Why do they need to drive trucks to the south end of the park? To remove any dirt from a landslide or a slump that might come over the wall, and move it onto the beach. So the trail was made to the width of a road and reinforced with a stone wall to make access for trucks to remove dirt, which wouldn’t be necessary if there wasn’t a twelve-foot-wide road and a stone wall. As near as I can tell, that’s the reasoning they used, but no one from the City wants to discuss it.

    The road that they call a trail was built through a wetland. It doesn’t go anywhere, and it doesn’t serve any purpose but to allow trucks into the area for dirt removal, which wouldn’t be necessary if there weren’t a road. If a private citizen applied for a permit to build a road through a wetland, and the road served no purpose and didn’t go anywhere, do you think you would get the permit? All along the south end of the park, where the beach was supposedly restored, water seeping off the hillside in a dozen places is channeled into a ditch, and the collected water is released onto the beach in two locations. In other words, there is absolutely nothing natural about this supposed restoration. Even the plant choices, which are mostly native, are in the wrong place, and the plants they planted would not be present at the same time. Immediately after the bulldozers were done, alder trees planted themselves, healing the land like they naturally would, and they cut down many of the native alders to plant different natives that would not usually be found there at this time.

    I was told, by officials at the City of Burien, that if I felt the project was improperly built, I should talk to the Department of Ecology, who approved the permits. When I talked to Ecology, they said there was no point in talking to them because they would never issue any statement that would cast doubts on a project that was already completed, no matter what the facts were in the case.

    According to the ASBPA, this project will be held up as a model for how restoration should be done all over Puget Sound. It should be held up as an example of how not to do restoration. The City of Burien will not learn from this mistake because the official position is that there was no mistake. To anyone who doubts my assessment of the project, I would be happy to walk you through it and show you exactly what I’m talking about.

  3. Rainycity says:

    You don`t need to show me Jim, I`m with you on this one.
    I`ve never been able to understand even after all these years why they messed with it to begin with, It was a great natural beach growing up.

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