CUSH to Complete Waterfront Buffer

BY Joe Wojtas
They Day • 10/15/2009

Volunteers from Clean up Stonington Harbors are scheduled to complete their waterfront buffer demonstration project behind Stonington Commons in the borough Saturday morning, Oct. 17.

The project, located alongside Stonington Harbor, is designed to educate waterfront property owners about the benefits of certain plantings along the water’s edge instead of planting a grassy lawn all the way to the water’s edge. Fertilizer and other pollutants run off from lawns and into the water.

“We want to show its benefits, that it’s low maintenance and that it benefits the harbor,” said CUSH President Gracelyn Guyol.

Guyol said the roots of the buffer plants absorb excess nutrients and pollutants that might otherwise wash into the harbor, prevent erosion during storms, and discourage Canada geese.

Nineteen CUSH volunteers created the buffer along a 100-yard ribbon of land behind the luxury residential project on Sept. 19 and 20. On Saturday a smaller group of volunteers will finish up the work from 9 to 11 a.m.

Guyol said the idea for the project came up during a conversation she had with Save The Bay South County Coastkeeper David Prescott about a similar buffer in Providence.

“We felt it would be good to have one around here so people could see what the benefits could be,” she said. “We want to encourage waterfront homeowners to do this instead of letting lawns run down to the water.”

The buffer project is a collaboration between CUSH, Save The Bay, Stonington Commons Community, the Stonington Village Improvement Association, and SafeLawns of Salem.

The volunteers cleared the area and left existing beneficial plants in place. New plants were limited to low-growing salt-tolerant shrubs, grasses, ferns, and perennials. Mostly New England-native plants were added, with a few non-invasive exotics suited to coastal areas such as Summersweet, Lowbush Blueberry, Virginia Rose, and Beach Plum. The area also features ferns and grasses such as Sweet Fern, Switch Grass, and Little Bluestem. Colorful perennials include Milkweed, Bluebird Aster, Goldenrod, Bearded Tongue, Little Joe Pyeweed, Montauk Daisy, and Black-Eyed Susan.

Guyol said a sign with information about the plants, the project, and a reference to the CUSH Web site will be placed on a shed near the walkway that extends along the buffer.