Barker’s Island Restoration Project Needs Your Input

by Felicity Bosk

Superior’s Barker’s Island is home to 6.74 acres of public land used for recreational purposes. There are walkways, beaches, boat landings, and a fishing pier. The water is routinely tested for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and it has routinely been deemed unsafe to swim in.

“It was almost closed all summer because of E.coli,” said Linda Cadotte, director of parks, recreation and forestry for the city of Superior. 

The water in Barker’s Island’s inner bay becomes contaminated from pet waste, storm water runoff, birds, and trash. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined it to be an impaired beach as part of the St. Louis River Area of Concern. This is one of five geographic areas on Wisconsin’s Great Lakes that need special attention from the DNR to restore the habitats after pollution to the water. 

The preliminary design for the project will be submitted to the city on February 15. That will include estimated construction costs. Some time after that, though no official date has been chosen yet, there will be a public input meeting for people to share their thoughts on the project and what they would like to see from it. A final design will be submitted on April 30 and construction will tentatively be completed this summer. Cadotte said she hopes the restoration is completed early enough so people will be able to use the beach this summer. 

A public input hearing was held on January 24 at the Lake Superior Estuarium on Barker’s Island to go over the problems with the Island, the potential design of a new beach and recreation area, and to take comments from those in attendance. 

The new design includes creating one large beach with coarse grain sand, adding more parking spaces, building a public restroom and moving the fishing pier. The purposes of moving the fishing pier is so it is located downstream from the swimming area and waste created by birds who sit on the pier is less likely to mix into the water people are swimming in. The new pier will also be in an area where the water is deeper. 

A new boardwalk may also be built that will go alongside the bay. It will be elevated slightly allowing water to move underneath it and into the ground and bay, avoiding flooding. They may also plant vegetative swales and other trees and shrubs to absorb water into the ground to prevent flooding as well. 

“People come together when they’re participating in outdoor activities,” said Cadotte. “Barker’s Island is in our cities core, it’s visible, it’s one of the hubs for people coming into the area. To have the ability to have a clean swimming beach right in the middle of the city adds value to the overall enjoyment and activities people can do in the area.” 

The powerpoint presentation given at the January input session is available on the city of Superior’s website. Search for departments, click Parks & Recreation, and then on the left hand side, at the bottom of the list of links you will find information on the Barker’s Island Beach Restoration Project. The team working on this project is still looking for input from residents on what should be improved and what they would like to see. You can give your comments via email to parks@ci.superior.wi.us or by attending their next public input session. The Reader will publish that date when it is announced.