Barker's Island Beach Restoration Project

Barker's Island Beach Reopened July 2019

We are pleased to announce that the Barker's Island Beach Restoration Project is complete and the beach is open!

Barker’s Island beach is monitored for bacteria and results are posted on Wisconsin Beaches.  Please check that website before visiting the beach to be alerted to any advisories/closures.  There is also signage posted at the beach.

The beach restoration project included features to increase safety and reduce bacteria. Some of the features at the beach include shoreline vegetation to deter waterfowl and gulls from using the area, vegetated swales, pervious parking and wetland enhancements to reduce the stormwater runoff, the addition of beach sand for proper beach slope, elevated boardwalk replacing the asphalt path, and additional trash and bathroom facilities. The beach has many new plantings and it may take a full year before they are established. Temporary fencing will be in place during the growing season. While visiting, please stay on established walkways to prevent harming the sensitive vegetation.

Funding was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the US Environmental Protection Agency and by the City of Superior. Mayor Jim Paine is glad to see the project finished in time for residents to enjoy the beach this summer. “This project was a great collaboration between the City and DNR and has made the beach a much nicer place to visit,” said Mayor Paine. “Improving the health of this popular beach is also helping to delist the St. Louis River as an Area of Concern.”

The Barker’s Island Beach Restoration project is part of a larger effort to remove the St. Louis River from a list of 43 most polluted places on the Great Lakes. The Area of Concern, or AOC, designation was listed for the St. Louis River in 1987 due to poor water quality and habitat destruction. Pollution cleanup and restoration efforts are underway to remove the AOC impairments and delist the river by 2025. 

Thanks to Karl Everett for sharing the photos in the slideshow below.

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History of the Project

The Barker’s Island Inner Beach is 6.74 acres of public recreational area owned by the City of Superior. It is made up of 1,400 feet of Lake Superior shoreline access located near public boat launches and the marina. 

This beach restoration project was a collaboration with the Wisconsin DNR, City of Superior and Area of Concern partners. The project was designed to reduce levels of E. coli bacteria by optimizing the beach characteristics, managing runoff, enhancing wetland areas and deterring wildlife. Other improvements  included additional parking, a raised boardwalk and restroom facilities. 

The beach has been routinely sampled for e. coli, during the beach season over the past decade and data suggest that a number of E. coli sources influence the water quality at the beach. Restoration of the beach and recreational area was needed to mitigate potential E. coli sources and contribute to beneficial use impairment (BUI) removal. This restoration was also listed as a project in the St. Louis River Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan, item 7.04. A number of potential pathogen sources were identified including: storm water runoff, waterfowl and gulls, trash and debris, and pets.

The project  utilized low impact design principals and green infrastructure to achieve greater infiltration and storm water treatment at the recreation area. Approximately 1,750 feet of pedestrian trail was replaced with a raised boardwalk to maximize the ecological aspect of the area to improve water quality. 

A long-term monitoring and maintenance plan has been developed for the beach. This plan emphasizes the important steps to keeping the beach clean and open for recreation. The City will maintain the area by protecting plantings, deterring waterfowl, and routine sand grooming. It is important that users of the park stay on designated paths and follow all rules including NO feeding of wildlife and putting all trash in trash receptacles. The area will continue to be monitored for e. coli levels.

Barkers before and after photo poster
Barkers Island Poster with the project background

Additional information about Areas of Concern (or AOCs)

Harbors and waterways are being cleaned up around the nation. Learn how an Area Of Concern transforms and get involved locally by checking out the Area of concern website.

Here is an area of concern videos made by the Wisconsin DNR, entitled AOC 101 Wisconsin.

Restoring Barker’s Island Beach In Superior

The beach at Barker’s Island in Superior now has cleaner water and improved access for people to enjoy the water through ecologically sound parking and beach upgrades. The city-owned beach had past problems with high bacteria and advisories against swimming were often posted. The project, completed in 2019, has already shown improvements in water quality. Native plants were added along the shoreline to filter stormwater runoff and deter waterfowl from using the area. New plantings by parking areas and pervious surfaces allow stormwater to soak into the ground instead of going into the swim area. Better draining sand was also added so the beach dries out more quickly, which keeps it cleaner.