March 9, 2023
Shara Dee
(207) 347-4143


City Will Place Christmas Trees on Willard Beach to Restore Dunes

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The City of South Portland has received a permit from Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to place discarded Christmas trees on Willard Beach in an effort to restore dunes that were washed out during a December 23, 2022 storm. The City will place the trees on Friday morning, March 10, beginning at 8 AM.

Repurposing used Christmas trees collected by the City’s Department of Public Works, staff will place trees in rows on the beach to help trap blowing sand and rebuild the dunes vertically. Once covered with sand, the trees will become a natural part of the dunes. This will be a pilot project for the City and state, since no other Maine beach has utilized this technique previously. Maine Geological Survey (MGS) suggested this approach based on the success North Carolina and Alabama have seen in using this technique for 40+ years. Maine DEP is also partnering with the City on the project.

“This is a great way to recycle natural materials and an important trial for Maine. If successful, this method may be used statewide to economically save or restore many miles of sand dunes that may be lost due to impending sea level rise and climate change,” said South Portland Conservation Manager Kristina Ertzner.

The stretch of beach between Willard Street and Myrtle Ave is the City’s focus area for this restoration project. These dunes protect important public infrastructure, namely the wastewater force main that runs along the beach, in addition to providing wildlife habitat. A small patch of dunes between Myrtle Ave and Beach Street will be left to regenerate on its own. (These dunes protect private property, and Maine’s Constitution prohibits the City from spending public funds for a private purpose.)

To aid regrowth, on Friday City staff will restring temporary fencing to keep human and dog foot traffic out of the dunes. The City will also close off two private entrances to the beach for dune recovery for 12-18 months (one between Willow Street and Myrtle Ave, and another off of Fisherman’s Lane). This spring, the City will assess how much sand the Christmas trees naturally collect. More matching sand may need to be brought in to help fill the dune area. Once sufficient sand is in place, the City will replant dune grass on the stretch of beach between Willard Street and Myrtle Ave.

The project is estimated to cost in the range of $20,000. (South Portland investigated potential Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding through Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, but the City’s dunes were deemed ineligible for funding.) The City invites anyone interested in making a contribution toward dunes restoration to email Kristina Ertzner at

While the dunes will take many years to regrow, South Portland Parks, Recreation and Waterfront staff will be working with DEP to help ensure the dunes have the best chance at a full recovery. “We’re excited to get this project underway and see the dunes grow over the coming months and years,” said Ertzner.

About City of South Portland

The City of South Portland is a vibrant Southern Maine community of 26,000+ residents and over 1,500 businesses located on picturesque Casco Bay.