Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project

Coastal recreational use

Oak Street Beach - Chicago, IL
Chicago's Oak Street Beach is one of Lake Michigan's most visited beaches.

The Great Lakes shoreline is home to more than 1200 public beaches that draw millions of visitors each year. Impacts of coastal recreational use include:

  • Increased traffic to coastal areas
  • Potential pollution caused by recreational use, such as litter
  • Activities associated with beach management, such as beach grooming


Mapping coastal recreational use as a Great Lakes stressor

  • Canadian beach location points were provided by Environment Canada
  • U.S. beach locations were obtained from the U.S. EPA BEACH Act Geospatial Database. We converted beach segments to points using the midpoint.
  • The analysis includes beaches located within 1 km of the shoreline
  • We created 1 km buffer around each point to estimate the in-lake area affected by coastal recreation.


Distribution of  coastal recreational use as a stressor in the Laurentian Great Lakes (Inset: Western Lake Erie).