Members of the The Friends of Crescent Beach Green Bay and Area Society have expressed concern over plans by the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (TIR) over what the society is describing as the widening of the causeway that runs alongside the popular beach linking Highway 331 with George's Island.
"I think we all agree that the road needs some maintenance," conceded Peter Romkey, a director of the group referred to simply as Friends of Crescent Beach, who spoke to LighthouseNOW about the issue.
However he claims TIR's plans for the ecologically sensitive area are similar to what any ordinary road might undergo, such as "widening and ditching."
"This isn't really your typical road in Nova Scotia," says Romkey. "This is a road on a tombolo, you know a beach. And the sand dunes are very dynamic. They move and they have to be accounted for. You couldn't just widen the road five feet on each side by removing five feet of sand and leaving a vertical cut service."
He is concerned about damage to the marram grass and increased erosion at the two-kilometre, crescent-shaped beach near LaHave which is renowned for its sand dunes.
"They may even cause, if we had a storm in the fall, a breach of the beach," he warned.
Christina Yeadon, the TIR's project manager, confirmed to LighthouseNOW that Crescent Beach is on the TIR's schedule for local road paving.
"What that means is we're going to be repaving asphalt surface, and putting shoulder grabs down. As well as there'll be some culvert replacement and shoreline protection and maintenance of the catch basins."
She insisted there are no plans to widen the road.
"We are not. So I'm not sure where that information came from."
She said the department will be removing some sand. "But that's only in areas where the sand has drifted over the road and over the shoulders of the road."
According to Romkey, one of the society's members, David Hughes, has monitored the beach extensively over the past 10 years and raised his concern to Yeadon.
"We've lived by this beach and we've watched what happens in fall storms, through the winter. Where the sand goes."
Romkey says the members don't claim to be experts on dunes, "but there are certain things we understand from what we've seen over the past 10, 15, 20 years."
He was particularly disappointed to see the marram grass cut "before any explanation to Friends of Crescent Beach.
"There is nothing we can do when hurricanes strike the beach from the south, but to have Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal remove one of the only living things that will hold this dune together is nothing short of appalling," Romkey later wrote in an e-mail to this newspaper.
Yeadon noted that some of the sand has drifted nearly to the centre line, forcing drivers to cross into the other lane. Some of the guard rails are completely buried in sand with the build up more than a metre deep in some areas of the shoulders.
They anticipate clearing no more than 1.5 metres in width to reestablish the shoulders, Yeadon said, while the road itself will be re-paved.
"But we will not be widening it. We'll be refinishing what's existing," she emphasized.
She says the brush cutting that has taken place is typical of many paving projects "to re-establish site lines.
"So like if there's animals coming out of the ditch and crossing the road or anything like that there's a clear line of site for the safety of the road."
She recalled meeting with the Friends of Crescent Beach's Hughes to go over the project site and that "he identified to us where the healthy sand dunes are, as well as there's a couple of areas where the sand dunes are weak.
"We plan on working with [the society] to ensure that we're not impacting the sand dunes, as much as we can," said Yeadon.
The Friends of Crescent Beach Green Bay and Area is a small non-profit group that focuses its efforts on dune restoration and cleaning up Crescent Beach, "so that it will be memorable to all the tourists and local residents who visit this wonderful place," according to its website.