Great Beaches and Coasts

The sandy beaches that dot our Great Lakes coastlines are our community treasures.  They help create our sense of place, form part of our community personality, drive our local economies and provide for a healthy active lifestyle.

Beaches support over 8 million swimmers in the US alone and an estimated 80 million swimming days. Beaches and coasts are home to unique plants and animals, and provide habitat for birds and fish. Many fish species spend some portion of their lifecycle along the coast or beach.

Economically, beaches provide large direct and indirect benefits to communities and regions. Estimates vary, but the value of recreation from US beaches is estimated at $800 million annually and about $200 to $250 million annually in Canada.

Great Lakes and Great Beaches Success Stories

  • Toronto, Ontario: Seven of Toronto’s Beaches are certified as “Blue Flag” beaches, which is the international eco-label for quality beaches. Blue Flag beaches must meet 27 criteria in order to be certified as exceptionally healthy, clean, and environmentally-friendly waterfront recreation areas. Click here for more information.


  • Racine, Wisconsin: The City of Racine’s Beach Grooming Tactics are intended to reduce swimming bans by reducing non-point source pollution to Lake Michigan. Best Practice submitted in 2010 after implementation began in 2003. Click here for more information.


  • Wasaga Beach, Ontario, is one of the province’s most popular beaches. The Beach is Blue Flag certified, and also has historical significance from the War of 1812. Click here for more information.


  • Goderich, Ontario: Goderich’s Rotary Cove Beach is a Blue Flag beach, and the town also participates in the Green Ribbon beach program. Click here for more information.


  • Bluffers Park – Toronto, Ontario: The City of Toronto, Toronto Water, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority assessed and rehabilitated the Bluffer’s Park beach to reduce contamination from E. coli bacteria. The restored beach is one of the best examples of beach restoration; pre-restoration, the beach was in a health advisory 80% of the time. Post-restoration, the beach has been open 85% of the time and is now a Blue Flag beach. Click here for more information.


Great Lakes Beaches and Coasts: 2010 to 2020 Workshop

In April 2010, the Cities Initiative held a workshop on best practices for beaches and coastal areas in the Great Lakes Region, specifically on the lakes that border the Province of Ontario. This series of presentations provided a sense of the current state of Ontario’s beaches and coasts, the important role of tourism and trails, opportunities to improve beaches and coasts, and inspired beach and coastal success stories from around the province. A summary of these presentations is available here and workshop materials can be found here.


Workshop Presentations Include: