By Lauren Wanko
Christmas is over, but it doesn’t look like it in Bradley Beach as truckloads of trees are dumped on the sand.
“We’re getting calls from all over the towns in the shore area, even as far as Manhattan, Jersey City, Hoboken, all up north. We have trucks come in every day with loads,” said Bradley Beach Public Works Operating Supervisor Richard Bianchi Jr.
These are cut Christmas trees from people’s homes.
“It’s recycling, reusing and rebuilding what we need to do here for resiliency,” said Alek Modjeski of the American Littoral Society.
These evergreens have become the framework for the beach town’s dune system. Bradley Beach Public Works began installing snow fencing along their mile stretch of beach a couple months ago. Crews place the Christmas trees within the fenced area.
“This is the base of our dunes, so as these nor’easters come through this winter, the sands going to start moving around quite a bit and as that sand moves, it’s gonna get captured and accrued on this dune and start to build this dune a lot quicker than it would with dune grass vegetation,” Modjeski said.
Bianchi came up with the idea in the early 1990s when his team began building the dune system. They began with 20,000 Christmas trees.
“Over a 20-year period, they grew enormous. When hurricanes hit, it saved this town,” he said.
But Sandy destroyed the dunes.
“There were actually trees probably eight to 10 blocks inland and where the other trees went, they’re probably floating in the Caribbean somewhere,” Bianchi said.
So the Bradley Beach DPW is starting over, picking up trees curbside and accepting thousands. Today Brielle’s DPW brought in about 10 truckloads.
So far the Bradley Beach DPW has placed about 5,000 trees on the beach, but they still have a lot more work ahead, about three quarters of a mile. They’re hoping for about 20,000 more Christmas trees by the end of February.
If they don’t reach that number next year, crews will add more trees. The Department of Environmental Protection tells NJTV News The Army Corps completed a beach reconstruction project in Bradley Beach last year. Based on the design elevation of the beaches in that area, the Army Corps didn’t include dunes for the town in the project. Bianchi predicts the dune system his team is constructing will be at least four feet high by the summer.
“Once that sand’s placed, then we’ll go ahead and plant beach grass and put that on the front the dune,” said Modjeski.
“Dune grass has long, hairy roots on their system, which will weave itself through the trees which will create an even stronger barrier,” Bianchi said.
Until the dunes form with the snow-covered sand and smell of the ocean and pine trees, it may still feel Christmas at the shore.