The Dunegrass Man

The Dunegrass Man
June 2, 2017 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of Halley via Wikimedia

You meet the most interesting people at conferences involving the Great Lakes.

Take, for instance, the Dunegrass Man.

He gave a panel at the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure Conference at Detroit’s Cobo Hall.

His real name is Deane Wassink. He is president of  a company based in Holland, Michigan that plants dunegrass for erosion control in the sands along the shores of the Great Lakes. It’s an organic way to manage shorelines and protect soil and sand.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Deane Wassink, President of Olde Paths, courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

He brought along sprigs of the actual grass he and his crew plants,  and demonstrated the special method his company uses to plunge the sprigs  into the sand. He described  the way the roots of the grass reach down 12 inches, connect with other dunegrass roots,  and form a natural net that holds the sand together. Essentially, the dunegrass grows its own sea wall to prevent erosion.

Wassink says he is sending his teams all across the Great Lakes. Businesses, municipalities and private home owners are calling him these days as they increase their  efforts  to use natural methods to protect their land.  He showed photos of the dune grass glistening in the sun, and he says it’s a great replacement for lawns,

Wassink says his  company has grown so much, he has had to hire a full-time crew. And he decided to “pay it forward”: he has hired 12 ex-convicts and several other employees to plant the dunegrass, thousands of strands at a time. He says he’s dedicated to sharing his success and giving people a second chance.

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