I've often heard from cottagers fed up with the way some people treat our local beaches. Some are just small matters of beach etiquette that, if ignored, can add up to a big mess — and an environmental problem. In honour of Emily Post, we present the following tips on proper beach etiquette. You might want to post these in a conspicuous place where visitors to your beach can read and learn.
Don't bring glass containers: Leave your glass containers at home. Use plastic and paper (that you can recycle) when you go to the beach. Most people are barefoot, and you don’t want to cause injury to humans or their beloved pets, if the glass breaks.
Can you dig it? Sure, but fill it in afterwards: Like a golfer replacing a divot, beach goers who like to dig in the sand need to fill in their holes when they are done. Sand castles and holes left on the beach can pose a hazard to others walking along the shore, particularly people with low vision or walking after dark.
Bring a bag to collect litter as you walk on the beach: Many of the wildlife who live in and around the water do not chew or taste their food. They just gulp it! Even tiny pieces of litter can hurt wildlife, so please be sure to dispose of your garbage and recyclables in the proper place.
The Beach is NOT a Big Ashtray: When you go to the beach, try to enjoy the fresh lake air. Smoking ruins the total beach effect, and it really annoys others who are downwind. If you can’t go an hour without a smoke, separate yourself from others and make sure you are the one who is downwind. Dispose of your cigarette safely in a garbage receptacle, not the sand. Cigarette butts are a big polluter on our beaches, and a danger to wildlife if ingested.
Don't feed the wildlife: Birds and other animals at the beach can find their own food that is much healthier than the over-processed, salted, high-fat snacks in your picnic basket. Seagulls are good at begging and hovering. If you feed them, you may make them even more aggressive.
Dispose of your litter properly: Most public beaches have garbage or recycling cans positioned in strategic locations so you don’t have to walk too far to get rid of your garbage. Never toss it into the water or leave it on the sand for others to pick up: no one likes walking around litter on the beach.
Leave the beach cleaner than you found it: Human-generated garbage (like plastics) often ends up on the beach. This can kill shore life (fish, birds, etc.) that either becomes entangled in it or ingests it. It is collectively our responsibility to clean up our garbage!
Beach Fires: Many public beaches no longer allow fires on the beach. But for those areas where it is still allowed, make sure your fire is fully extinguished before you leave it. Build your fire near the water's edge so that embers do not float up and into treed areas or worse onto cottages. Do not have fires during the day or night when it is windy. If you start a fire when there is no wind but the wind gets up, immediately put out the fire. Spread the wood and coals out and pour water on it. A bonfire that is not put out completelty can smolder for hours, which is a nuisance for your neighbours. Many beach users have been victim to thoughtless people who haven’t put out their fire properly, only to step on a still burning ember the following day.
Follow the posted rules: Most public beaches have rules posted near the entrance. Read them and follow them. They are for the safety and enjoyment for everyone. These rules are very applicable to private beaches too!
We hope that these etiquette tips will contribute to making Lake Huron the most civilized of the Great Lakes.
[article by Geoff Peach, Coastal Resources Manager]