An early September windstorm in 2010 seems to have dictated an odd policy in Ludington that has been followed ever since: installation of the snow/sand fence starting the Monday after Labor Day. In a Facebook post the City of Ludington rationalized the policy in its header:

"Sand fence will begin to go up on Monday September 9th. You will still be able to access the beach even after the fence goes up. The fence helps to keep the sand where we love it...on the beach(or as close to it as possible). The winds of fall are upon us and this necessary step keeps from having a large clean up bill and an impassible Lakeshore drive."

The post includes the same link used by the City over the last few years to explain their decision to put the fencing up at this time, including some generalizations about the wind and the seasons:

"During a typical fall it's rainy and windy... We do understand your concerns and frustrations when it comes to covering our beautiful beach with ugly sand fence. It signals the end of summer and the end to what most people consider the best time of the year. Each year we have to make that decision as to when we will start the sand fence installation and that is a decision that we don't take lightly."

The majority of respondents to the post are understanding and sympathetic and appreciate the gesture, since the City of Ludington appears to be trying to do its best to have an appealing park and not having to spend big bucks on wind cleanup.

But like the June flooding in 2008, what would you say if I told you the early September windstorm in 2010 was a very rare occurrence. And unlike the flood damage that racked the area in 2008, the City was amply forewarned of strong winds coming to town and much of what happened at Stearn's Beach could have prevented by emergency mobilization of fencing-- but it would have had to take place before or during the busy Labor Day holiday weekend.

And what if I told you that there is a lot more likelihood of a freak windstorm in June than there is in the month of September in Ludington. Would you consider the City prudent for keeping sand fence up through June then? Here's the facts based on historical weather conditions, the first statistics show that September is one of the mildest months for wind in Ludington, even when you include the anomaly of September 2010 in the mix. The following graph follows a nine year sequence of yearly observations at local Station LDTM4 (Ludington, MI):

September loses out to only August and July for the lowest average wind speeds (the black dot within the red variances). June follows, and lest we forget, the summer solstice falls on June 21. The two are close, but further on in that same wind comparison site for Ludington, they have wind observations, directions and speeds, for five years, which includes that very windy September in 2010. Most enlightening is the wind class (speed) frequency bar graph. It shows that in June of these years the wind class fell between 0-10 knots: 81.9 %, between 10-20 knots: 16.8% and 20-30 knots: 1.3%

During that same period, September was milder in all classes at 82.8%, 16% and 1.2%, respectively, even with 2010 as part of the data, as seen below. Is anybody from the City suggesting we leave the snow fence in place through June since the statistics show we should have more devastating wind effects in that month than September?

And just in case you think I'm cherry-picking data from years that support my thesis, which would be odd since the freak 2010 September windstorm is included in both presented cases, this climate website shows the all-time averages for monthly weather phenomena in Ludington, which verifies that from June through the end of September, the average wind speed each month is 6 mph. It also shows that the month of May (at 8 mph) has greater average wind speeds than October (at 7 mph). Yet the City of Ludington begins removing the sand fences before the end of May.

Lastly when we look at the Average monthly wind speeds for cities in the Great Lakes region over the period of recorded weather history, we find that the pattern is true for other places than Ludington. Average wind speeds in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit are at least 10 mph in May, 9 mph or better in June, but in September, these cities average less than 9 mph.

Yet nobody from the City ever suggests that we keep snow fence up through May and June, just that we put them up in a month that has lighter winds and smaller chances of having a devastating windstorm. The 'fall' month of September which has three weeks of summer, which is more than June can say with its three weeks of blustery spring and ten days of summer. 

The misdirection by the City is obvious, they want you to believe the fencing is put up in September because of winds, but the reason is more because the DPW would rather put up and take down fences on a set schedule rather than putting them up on a schedule directed by Mother Nature.  The rewards of potentially extending a second tourist season past Labor Day, or just allowing the natives to enjoy their park after the summer bustle, is offset by the nuisance that they may have to quickly mobilize forces to prepare for an upcoming windstorm.   

As it currently stands, we have snow fence up at Stearns Park nearly 70% of the year, put up and taken down a week before and after peak tourist season between holiday weekends.  We can do better than that and protect ourselves from most every windstorm that may hit the beach, even during tourist season by having a strong reactive approach rather than a misguided proactive approach that has fence up 250 days every year.  

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Doesn't seem to matter how many locals complain about this or how many years either. 250 days a year is just ridiculous and out or reason.

Yet, you think they would respect what long-term weather observations show even when it means that they could extend the period of time that Ludington could be a viable family and couples tourist destination.  Instead they try to attract traveling alcoholics with a rather lame Octoberfest hosted by out of town breweries.

Still haven't found a year since 2010 when June winds weren't stronger than September breezes.

Putting up the sand fences so early is for the timing convenience of the city staff, and is just another way the city says "sludge on you". I think there could be maybe even better alternatives to the sand fences to hold the sand back. I wonder how Manistee's beach wall is working?

Good post X. It's hard to argue facts especially concise graphs and weather data for the Ludington area. How early the snow fences should be installed should be up to the voters, because they are the people who use the beach in the off season and who pay the bills. I can understand why the City installs the fences early but if they are nothing else, the fences  are certainly butt ugly and to those that have to see thru them or wander the maze to get to the water they are just a pain in that butt.

I will always advocate for an emergency fencing system that would be easily deployable on the east side of Stearn's Drive on permanent metal posts set on the parking curb, just before the grassy area, to fend off unseasonably high winds of June, July and August.  But for such a system to work, the DPW and/or city hall need to be constantly attuned to high wind conditions moving into the area.  These also wouldn't block half of the parking spaces at Stearn's; believe it or not on these warm September days, parking is about as scarce as it is during most of the summer.

As early as late April, the beach fencing could be removed and stay that way until early October if we adopted a reactive system where this fencing could be put up in as little time as an hour by a devoted team, freeing them up for the few hours it would take to perhaps put a line or two of temporary fencing on the beach arrayed so as to best keep the sand from blowing any further.  If they need extra manpower we always have the LFD and other volunteers that could surely help.

I take an opposite view X.

I always thought that the area West of the sidewalk at Stearns Outer Drive should be grass, a strip about 60 feet wide along the length of the beach. Delineate the interface between the grass and sand with some kind of fencing be it as simple as the bed rail fencing along the West End Scheme or concrete posts with a rope or chain between them.  

That way certainly in the fall or anytime forecast to be a strong wind event a sand fence could be deployed along this barrier using the fence for support.  At the very least it could stop the need to construct and dismantle the barrels and fence along the east side of Stearns Drive annually. 

The grass should be athletic field sod not dune grass, laid on a bed of black dirt, and have its own sprinkler system.  It should be easy enough to run a loader along the outside of the fence to remove any accumulations of sand much as they do along the barrels. Any accumulations inside the fence could be blown back with a tractor driven debris blower. That and having to cut this grass strip should be less costly than either the current policy with the barrels and the need to block the beach the first thing in September. Nor should it be as obtrusive as constructing a permanent sand wall.

I appreciate any proffered opinions, I wouldn't be surprised if the most practical solution hasn't been thought of yet. 

Yet in looking over your plan, I think that it would be a hard sell to those who are used to beach to the right, grassland to the left as they come down Stearn's Drive.  It looks costly to implement and potentially more costly to maintain, and if it doesn't work as planned would be costly to put back the way it was.  Consider all the money the City could have saved if they hadn't used James Street Plaza as a Petri dish of whimsy this century and came up with a lasting plan for it.  

Personally, I like seeing an expansive beach and anything restricting that, be it grass, other bizarre landscaping (see the failed West End Project), or the most ornamental picket fence you can imagine, would not likely change that opinion.  Any plan that preserves that natural beauty and is 'wiser' than my plan or existing plans should be considered.

X, I wouldn't expect a youngster as yourself to have knowledge of how the beach used to look.

In the late 40's early 50's there was a grass strip as I described. As far as I know it was there forever. When Stearn's Outer Drive was renovated maybe late 50's early 60's?? they took out the grass and trees from the beach. 

I rather see it restored to what is was then, instead of what it has become.

There wasn't the issue then with sand blowing and accumulating on the roadway. There was still a sand fence but the timeliness of the installation was less an issue as was it's effectiveness. It was installed from the grass strip West.

Would like to see a cost analysis of the current sand fence annually both in terms of labor and materials to make a judgement against what the subsidized expense of restoring the beach  would be.

Sometimes the forgotten ways doing things was for the matter of efficiency rather than the modern design of aesthetics.  You only have to look no further than the West End Scheme which was constructed in a recognized Federal floor area. A parking lot there made more sense than a half million dollar concrete platform for a beer tent.  

Wasn't aware of the timeline of history, I did know the beach area didn't start off as a big sandbox back when it was proffered to the city.  It may be wise to look at why the strip was removed and made as it was today without the populace at the time raising a ruckus, then evaluate whether it's worth putting back in.  I would likely be against it for costs and added maintenance alone, lest you could make a convincing case otherwise.  

I like your idea of a grass strip, shinblind. It makes sense that it would help hold the sand back. That is combination with a concrete wall/sitting bench would probably be very effective and would have been a much better investment than the west end.

But certain people at city Hall get their pet projects pushed through without consideration or involvement of the people who pay the taxes and their wages.

I think shinblind has a point. The only problem is the amount of foot traffic that will eventually erode and smother the grass. That is probably why it was done away with. I'm not positive but I think the photo below is of Stearns Beach and shows the strip of grass in question. It appears to be dune grass which would have been naturally growing there. It would interesting to know why the strip of the grass and trees were removed.

If one of our old timers could get me an actual year, plus or minus five years either way, of when this strip was removed, I will do some research to find answers. 


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