Yes, it is. And you can blame the acquisitive wave action of Lake Erie. The trend can be reversed, but it could cost up to $9 million, a recent study found.
The most southerly point on Canada’s mainland is Point Pelee in southwestern Ontario. In fact it’s so far south, the point is at a similar latitude to northern California. But up until the winter of 2006-07, the tip extended about a kilometre south of where it now ends.
The lake’s continual erosion action has swept away what was once a long sandy finger, placing the Canadian mainland’s most southerly point a kilometre north of where it was just a few years ago. Point Pelee is today a national park that contains marshlands housing hundreds of species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, many of which are rare or endangered.
Point Pelee National Park officials estimate that about 300 acres have been shaved from the point in the past century-and-a-half. And they fear that in the next 50 years, another 430 acres could disappear beneath the lake’s surface.
Studies suggest that if stones were placed in the lake on the east and west sides of the point to act as artificial shoals, they could help to break up wave action that has been responsible for carting away the sand. If rock berms were added on both sides of the tip, they could actually contribute to the buildup of sand and extend the narrow beaches that currently line the southern end of the point.
Estimates of what it would cost to build these barriers to the lake’s erosion forces range from $3 million to $9 million.
Point Pelee a birder's paradise
The park is tiny by national standards at just 15 square kilometres. But there are plenty of reasons for wanting to preserve it. When it was established in 1918, Point Pelee was the first national park created to specifically protect and present its natural importance to Canadians. It has since been designated a UNESCO Wetland of International Significance, a Monarch Butterfly Reserve, a Dark Sky Preserve and an Important Bird Area.
Point Pelee sits at the crossroads of the Atlantic and the Mississippi migration flyways, a place where migrating birds stop over on their long journeys north in the spring and south in the fall. It is, in effect, a stepping stone on their voyage. Special events take place during the course of the season to introduce visitors to the park’s wildlife. For more information, go to the Parks Canada website.
In 2000, Middle Island was added to the park. While it is accessible by boat, it is closed to visitors during certain times of the year to protect nesting birds.