By Lauren Wanko
Today’s high wind gusts and stormy weather may be the first test for the new maritime forest in Bradley Beach, home to more than two dozen different varieties of trees, shrubs and grasses.
“This area took a pounding during Sandy and the very nature of the plants we’re doing here, the dunes we’re doing here that’s serious protection,” said Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad.
The forest, planted by a small army of volunteers along with borough and county staffers, is situated behind the dune system, which was wiped out by Sandy, and next to the lake, which filled with sand and other debris during the storm.
“All of the sand that would come off all the beaches, a majority of that sand would get captured here in this area and stay off the lake. You’re looking at probably a wind breaker,” said Coastal Ecologist Al Modjeski of AECOM.
Modjeski says the forest is meant to protect the beach town, promote resiliency, reduce storm risk and inspire the community.
“I think it’s a great model to really bring communities together and say this is something we’re gonna do and we can leave it for our children and so on,” Modjeski said.
“I think it’s wonderful. I think that anything that can be done to preserve the nature that comes along with the Jersey Shore is great,” said Bradley Beach resident.
Experts are calling the maritime forest a model for other coastal communities and protection for New Jersey’s coastal lakes, many of which are in jeopardy.
“They’re relatively dying, they’re filling up with sentiment, you’re not seeing the circulation that you want to see. The water quality really hasn’t improved. They’re just glorified retention ponds,” Modjeski said.
The 0.4-acre forest, funded through a variety of grants, replaces a lot that once served as a staging area for borough equipment.
“This was a hardpan surface lot so it creates a sheeting action. All the storm water does right down to the storm drains at the bottom here in the street all that water foes in untreated to the lakes,” Modjeski said. “This now since we’ve road tilled this with heavy machinery the water’s gonna percolate down, the plants are gonna take that water up, no sheeting action, so whatever does end up in the lakes will be treated through the vegetation.”
Modjewski and his team will monitor the forest over the coming months. Whatever doesn’t survive the long winter will be replanted this spring.