Restoring Dunes Protects

Piping Plover Nesting Habitat

Native vegetation was planted to stabilize sand dunes near North Sandy Pond while a walkway will allow visitors to access the dunes without eroding them, protecting crucial nesting habitat for piping plovers.


North Sandy Pond spans 2,400 acres and is located in the heart of a larger dune and wetland ecosystem near eastern Lake Ontario. The dunes, beaches, and near-shore sandbars in this region form a coastal barrier that shelters 5,000 acres of critical wetland habitat for a variety of native birds, including the federally endangered Great Lakes piping plover. North Sandy Pond is also a popular spot for recreationalists to anchor their boats before walking through the dunes to the lake shore. Unfortunately, this foot traffic damages the fragile but ecologically vital beach grass that stabilizes the dunes. Losing the beach grass makes the dunes more susceptible to wind erosion, resulting in blowouts that damage the dunes. These sand dunes cannot be replaced as they are a remnant of the post glacial period. Thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation was able to stabilize these dunes while taking steps to prevent future erosion. The office hired several Dune Stewards to replant beach grass to stabilize the sand. The stewards mapped larger populations of invasive plants to aid in future control efforts, while removing invasives where they could. Snow fencing was installed to direct foot traffic away from sensitive vegetation, while also capturing wind-blown sand, preventing it from leaving the dune complex. Dune Stewards installed fencing to protect important nesting areas for birds and conducted daily monitoring of piping plover populations. In 2019, a walkway will be constructed to allow visitors to access the lakefront without damaging the newly planted dune grass.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Erosion
  • Loss of wildlife habitat
  • Invasive species
  • Barriers to outdoor recreation



People planting on a beach

Dune Stewards plant native vegetation, which will hold sand dunes in place, restoring an ecologically important landscape. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Results and Accomplishments

By protecting the dunes, the project will also protect the 2,400-acre North Sandy Pond and its surrounding wetland habitat, which is sheltered by the dunes from storm surges coming off of Lake Ontario. These efforts have resulted in the first successful nesting of piping plovers on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario in over 30 years. The project will allow responsible recreational use of North Sandy Pond and the dunes to continue.