West Haven begins shoreline restoration and reforestation process

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A town committee aims to add foliage to West Haven’s shoreline – and keep it that way.

City parks and recreation manager Mark Paine said there are many benefits to planting native perennials, such as providing food for birds, habitats for butterflies and insects and also protecting against coastal erosion, keeping the sand in place.

Before the committee makes any decisions, however, members agreed to aggressively seek public input.

The project committee received $200,000 from the state, which it used to retain SLR International Corp. to conduct a site analysis and create a design for a Coastal Resilience Plan. Megan Raymond, coastal scientist at SLR, said the visualizations produced at the end of the process will be “almost turnkey” to meet grant application requirements as the city seeks funds for next steps.

“We have incredible building blocks with this project,” she said. “There is work to be done, but there are really great bones.”

Paine said that following heavy storms two years ago, the the city removed several deteriorated trees in the area — and unbeknownst to city officials, seeds of non-native invasive plants under the roots of those trees germinated and were able to spread.

SLR landscape architect Jason Williams said feedback during the process will help establish several attributes of the design, such as whether residents can walk the area or whether perennials are planted. To ensure that the public is informed, a website will be created to provide updates. Williams said SLR should complete its work by February.

Marilyn Wilkes, co-chair of the committee, said the space should be useful for educational purposes and she would like to see “vibrant community involvement” from parents and students.

Paine said the space will also be used as a “nature classroom” for the city’s Eco Camp. And he said he had a suggestion: Savin juniper, or savin, is a tree that could be added as a potential homage to the former Savin Rock amusement park that once stood in the area.

brian.zahn@hearstmediact.com

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