Smart Beach arrives in our community: reflections on a successful launch

It was a perfect day for the launch of the first-of-its-kind in North America, Smart Beach on Wednesday, May 25 at Station Beach in Kincardine.

Four Smart Beach participants stand in front of the Smart Beach billboard
L-R: Doug Kennedy, Municipality of Kincardine; Becky Smith, NII; Dr. Chris Houser, University of Windsor; Kara Van Myall, MIC Chair

Lake Huron was enticingly still, and the different shades of blue rivalled the Caribbean as a slow, warm southern breeze swirled along the shore. Which was a huge relief after I’d been incessantly checking the weather for the past two weeks and saw the forecast flip-flop from rainy, cold and damp weather to finally, sunshine and 22 degrees!


Smart Beach takes over the airwaves

We couldn’t have asked for a better day for the launch of the Smart Beach project in partnership with the MIC member municipalities. I had the pleasure of MC-ing the event, which featured our speakers: Doug Kennedy, Councillor, Municipality of Kincardine; Dr. Chris Houser, Dean of Environment, University of Windsor and lead researcher of the Smart Beach project; and Kara Van Myall, CAO of Saugeen Shores and Chair of the MIC.


It’s great to see the Smart Beach come to fruition at one of our MIC member’s beaches and generate lots of media coverage. Dr. Chris Houser was interviewed throughout the course of the day, and was featured on CBC Ontario Morning, CTV London, CBC’s Here and Now, and CBC Sudbury.

The University of Windsor project team delivers the RAEON buoy to its new home off of Station Beach in Kincardine.


For those of you who were unable to attend the launch or are just finding out about the Smart Beach project now, here’s a bit more about the project. The MIC has partnered with Dr. Chris Houser, an expert in coastal geomorphology, to pilot a three-year project at Station Beach in Kincardine, Ontario.


To best explain what the Smart Beach project is, it only makes sense to quote our resident expert himself, Dr. Chris Houser:

“Smart Beach is bringing technology to bear to improve beach safety, to reduce the number of beach rescues and drownings by better understanding what the waves and the currents are doing, and how people are using the beach. So that we can then provide a safer beach by providing better and more robust information to the public.”

Voices of the Smart Beach community

So what does the Smart Beach project mean to our community members—like our surfers, paddle boarders, swimmers and first responders?

As Brad Lemaich, the Municipality of Kincardine’s Fire Chief, said:


“There’s always the concern for beach safety, but there is also the concern for my firefighters’ safety… and any information that we can get from the Smart Beach project over the course of the next few years will help us to respond smarter and safer, is invaluable in my opinion… and lowers that level of risk for our responders—that makes me a very happy fire chief.”


Meagan Fair, an innovation catalyst at NPX and local resident who runs the very active Kincardine Strong Facebook page said:

“I’ve got nine-year-old twin boys and we live about a block away from the lake. And you know them going down to the beach by themselves and go swimming or hang out at the beach with their friends. You know I can’t always be there are things that we can do to make things safer, and there is information you can use to keep people safe.”

I am so thankful for all of our community partners within the Municipal Innovation Council, Dr. Chris Houser and Alex Smith from the University of Windsor for all the work they have done on the science behind the smart beach and the Municipality of Kincardine for hosting this project. We couldn’t have launched this project without you!

Visit SmartBeach.ca and follow #SmartBeach on your socials to stay up to date on all things Smart Beach as the project evolves across the next three years!

 

Becky Smith is the Director of the Centre for Municipal Innovation.