New sand dunes have been created near Ventura’s popular Surfers Point to help prevent beach erosion and provide wildlife habitat, but it’s going to take some ongoing cooperation from visitors to make the project a success.

I joined a crew of more than 70 volunteers to comb extraneous debris from the dunes, and begin the process of planting native vegetation that will help keep them from blowing away and covering a recently built bike path and parking lot with sand.

The sand was relocated from Ventura’s Pierpont Beach, where excessive windblown accumulations damaged private property and posed safety issues for people using stairs to access the shoreline. For some reason, it contained foreign objects, including chunks of concrete and litter.

Volunteers using rakes, shovels and hands filled dozens of buckets. I found some large jagged shards of broken glass that could have potentially cut somebody’s foot if they had later been exposed by the wind.

The dunes are just one aspect of the multimillion-dollar Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project that’s been under way for years, and is a partnership between numerous groups, including city leaders, Ventura County Fairgrounds officials and the Surfrider Foundation. It needed to be done because a bike path installed during 1989 that was closer to the ocean than the new one was quickly damaged by ocean storms.

Ventura Surfrider Foundation Campaign Coordinator Paul Jenkin says dunes play several important roles and have unfortunately been disappearing across the state for years. “Coastal dune areas like this are an important part of the natural coastal ecosystem. Birds and other critters live in there. But I think, more importantly, the dunes provide a buffer to erosion events,” Jenkin said.

“The whole point of this project originally was to provide an alternative to hard coastal structures in response to coastal erosion. We’ve done that by retreating, but then restoring this native dune field,” Jenkin said. “These dunes will prevent waves from washing over the parking lot and provide a sand supply during those big events. That sand will then get out on the beach and nourish the beach, too.”

Everyone visiting that area of the beach is asked to avoid playing on the new dunes or stepping on the plants. Straw has also been spread around to help keep the sand and native plants in place.

Some of the plants were first nurtured in volunteers’ backyards. More plants should soon pop up because a native seed mix was sprinkled on the dunes.

“Those seeds will sprout this spring and provide natural stabilization for the dunes so the sand doesn’t just blow away. And then we also have some plants that people have been growing from seed starting last spring, and they’ve been kind of plant parents over the summer,” Jenkin said.

Future work days are anticipated by leaders of the Surfrider Foundation and a city-led effort called Volunteer Ventura!

“There’s going to need to be a long-term maintenance program to continue to weed out the nonnatives and help the native plants along. So we’ll probably do some more weeding events into the springtime when things really start to sprout, and hopefully steward this into the future,” says Jenkin.

Volunteer Krishna Juarez of Ventura thought it was a fun event, though it took considerable effort to sift through the dunes. “I think it’s great. It’s important to have this kind of resource so close to the city where people can enjoy it,” said Juarez. “It’s good for the animals, and it’s good for us, too.”