Barker's Island Beach Restoration Project

Barker's Island Beach Reopens

Barker’s Island Beach Restoration highlighted as part of the Lake Superior Day Celebration on Sunday, July 21st.

As part of the annual Lake Superior Day event hosted by the National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and City of Superior will be showing off the recently completed Barker’s Island Beach Restoration project. Just in time for this summer’s beach season, the project will reduce beach closures caused by poor water quality and enhance the recreational area. “The City and DNR worked together to solve some issues at the beach that were contributing to the high bacteria problems.” said Matt Steiger, Wisconsin DNR St. Louis River Area of Concern Coordinator. 

The Lake Superior Day event will be held at the Lake Superior Estuarium, 3 Marina Drive, on Barker’s Island from 11-3 on Sunday, July 21st. 

In addition to the activities planned for Lake Superior Day, the event will kick off with a Barker’s Island Beach project announcement by Mayor Jim Paine at 11:00 am. Additional project information and guided tours will be offered during the event at 12:30, 1:30, and 2:30. 

The beach restoration project includes 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. Barker’s Island beach is monitored for bacteria and results are posted on

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. 

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.

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 clicking HERE

Here is a video made by the Wisconsin DNR, entitled AOC 101 Wisconsin.