As the dog days of summer heat up, a popular swimming beach in Superior is reopening.

The beach on Barker’s Island has undergone a nearly $800,000 rehabilitation to address contamination advisories that were a frequent occurrence there.

The project was a partnership among the city of Superior, which owns the beach, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Lake Superior Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and was funded, in part, through the Great Lakes Restoration Fund.

“Barker’s Island area stood out as an area that had a lot of use, but it had a lot of issues with the bacteria,” said Matt Steiger, St. Louis River Area of Concern coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “So we underwent a two-year monitoring study where we looked closer at the potential sources in that area. We also did some DNA analysis of the bacteria to see if we could pinpoint and solve some of those issues.”

Fences line the shoreline and around the boardwalks along Barker’s Island on Monday morning as people use the beach. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Fences line the shoreline and around the boardwalks along Barker’s Island on Monday morning as people use the beach. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

DNA tests revealed the source of bacteria was waterfowl in the area and informed the design to rehabilitate the beach and surrounding area.

“A lot of design aspects really focused on deterring the birds that would spend a lot of time there,” Steiger said.

New shoreline vegetative swales were planted to discourage waterfowl such as gulls and geese in the area, said Linda Cadotte, Superior’s parks, recreation and forestry director. The new vegetation, pervious pavers in the parking area and enhancements to the wetlands will help treat stormwater running from the road as well, she said.

The project included installing a raised boardwalk along the waterfront, restroom facilities, trash receptacles, and a station to provide the public with bags to clean up after their pets, Cadotte said.

Steiger said those design features will help prevent pollution of the rehabilitated beach.

The project was critical for meeting the goal of delisting the St. Louis River Area of Concern by 2025, Cadotte said.

Logan Brummett, left, and LeAnn Bollin put up a goose fence near the beach at Barker’s Island on Monday morning. The workers, from Boreal Natives, of Munger, Minn., have been working off and on at Barker’s Island for over a month, putting in vegetation, landscaping and fences. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Logan Brummett, left, and LeAnn Bollin put up a goose fence near the beach at Barker’s Island on Monday morning. The workers, from Boreal Natives, of Munger, Minn., have been working off and on at Barker’s Island for over a month, putting in vegetation, landscaping and fences. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

“This project was a great collaboration between the city and DNR and has made the beach a much nicer place to visit, as well as help to delist the St. Louis River as an 'Area of Concern,'” said Mayor Jim Paine, who is glad to see the project completed when the public can still use it.

To celebrate the reopening of the beach, the city, along with the Superior Young Professionals, Chamber of Commerce and DNR, will be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony and other activities at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at the beach. A food truck will be available and drink specials are offered afterward at Barkers Island Inn.

“One way many residents can enjoy this beautiful time of the year is a day at the beach,” said Ruth Heitke of Superior Young Professionals.

The city’s share of the cost was upward of $50,000 for the vault toilets, trash and recycling receptacles, and in-kind labor on the project, Cadotte said.

Steiger said the city will also be responsible for a 10-year monitoring plan.

“During the first two seasons, there’s going to be a lot of temporary fencing so that the vegetation can get established,” Steiger said. “That’s one of the main features -- restoring shoreline that isn’t beach so that tall vegetation on the shoreline keeps the geese and the ducks from sitting on the edge. Until that vegetation is established, they have to protect it so people know they shouldn’t trample it … stay on the boardwalks and enjoy the beach.”