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Community Partners Restore one of Niagara’s Largest Coastal Dune Ecosystems

Niagara Coastal is restoring 6,600m2 of coastal dune habitat at Nickel Beach; Port Colborne’s most popular beach destination. In partnership with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, the City of Port Colborne and VALE Canada Ltd., this project engages community members in local actions to contribute to a healthy and resilient Lake Erie coastal ecosystem.
Aug 16, 2022
1:30 p.m.
Eroded coastal sand dune at Nickel Beach. Image captured December 14, 2021 following a severe storm a few days prior.
Eroded coastal sand dune at Nickel Beach. Image captured December 14, 2021 following a severe storm a few days prior.

The coasts of the Great Lakes are under threat from the impacts of our changing climate. High water levels, more frequent and intense storm events, and decreasing lake ice cover are resulting in unprecedented rates of erosion throughout the Great Lakes.

Blair Holinaty, Supervisor, Recreation and Marina with the City of Port Colborne has personally witnessed this degradation. “As a result of major storm events in recent years, the coastal dunes at Nickel Beach have seen significant erosion, resulting in public safety concerns, and significant impacts to neighboring properties”, comments Holinaty.

To mitigate ongoing flooding and erosion, much of the Great Lakes shoreline has been hardened with stones, breakwalls, and other human-engineered structures. While providing a “quick fix”, this has had the unintended consequence of disrupting natural coastal processes and exacerbating impacts further along the coast.

Nature-based solutions, which focus on working together with nature, are a proven alternative strategy to  address these complex challenges. “Nature-based shorelines are one of the strongest tools we have in mitigation of a changing climate”, adds Gregary Ford, Executive Director of Niagara Coastal.

Natural shorelines provide immense value through:

  • filtering stormwater runoff;

  • accumulating and stabilizing sediments;

  • providing habitat for wildlife; and

  • protecting against flooding and erosion.

Through the support of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s EcoAction Community Fund, Niagara Coastal is working with the community to implement nature-based solutions. The collaboration to restore the coastal dune at Nickel Beach is one such project that is currently underway to increase shoreline resiliency on Lake Erie.

“This partnership is a true example of our collaborative approach and ongoing commitment to shoreline resiliency through nature-based solutions,” adds Geoff Verkade Senior Manager of Integrated Watershed Planning, and Information Management at NPCA. “This project serves as a great opportunity to call the coastal community to action and further engage them on the issues facing our Niagara shorelines.”

The first phase of the restoration is now complete. On Friday August 12 community volunteers joined Niagara Coastal and the project partners to install more than 600m of snow fencing along the eroding coastal dune.

The snow fencing serves two main purposes;

  1. It keeps people and vehicles away from these sensitive areas while the dunes regenerate.

  2. It acts as a wind barrier helping to deposit and trap wind-blown sand, accelerating the dune’s growth over time.

“We’re proud to be a part of this important dune preservation project,” said Nadeem Khan, Manager of VALE’s Port Colborne Refinery. “The Nickel Beach dunes have been enjoyed by our employees and this community for more than 100 years and we look forward to supporting initiatives like these that will preserve them for future generations to enjoy.”

Local organizations and community members will be invited later this fall to assist with the second phase of the restoration. This Coastal Day of Action will revegetate Nickel Beach’s dune with native coastal plants, furthering the accumulation and stabilization of sediments across the shoreline.

Learn more about how you can get involved with the restoration work this fall at

Follow @niagaracoastal on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.

609m (2000') of sand fencing was recently installed by volunteers along Nickel Beach's eroding coastal dune.
609m (2000') of sand fencing was recently installed by volunteers along Nickel Beach's eroding coastal dune.

About Niagara Coastal:

The Niagara Coastal Community Collaborative is committed to understanding and improving the health of Lake Erie’s coast, in collaboration with eNGOs, government, landowners, academia, and community members. They operate across Lake Erie’s north shore in the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral peoples, with acknowledgement that the area influencing this coast includes 29 watersheds contributing to the lake.


Niagara Coastal works on three ecological priorities— nature-based shorelines, healthy beaches, and habitat and species. They are dedicated to optimizing and expanding local action to build a healthy and resilient Lake Erie coastal ecosystem that supports the community's economic, recreational, environmental, and health and well-being needs.

About NPCA: 

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is a community-based natural resource management agency that works to protect, enhance, and sustain healthy watersheds. With 61 years of experience, the NPCA offers watershed programs and services that focus on flood and hazard management, source water protection, species protection, ecosystem restoration, community stewardship, and land management. 

The NPCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in the Province of Ontario and manages 41 Conservation Areas within the Niagara Peninsula watershed held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education. These natural and shared greenspaces marry nature, culture, and adventure to create limitless opportunities for discovery. Visit for more information.

About VALE Canada Ltd. :

VALE is one of the world’s largest mining companies, present across five continents. VALE is also the world’s largest producer of nickel, with our Base Metals business headquartered in Toronto. Operating in Canada for more than 100 years, our Canadian operations produce nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group metals, gold and silver. Vale has a cobalt and precious metals refinery in Port Colborne, Ontario. For more information, please visit:

About the City of Port Colborne:

Visit for more information.

Questions related to the above release should be directed to:

Tessa Anderson, Communications Specialist

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