This year, the American Littoral Society’s Beachgrass Planting Event was a huge success. Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of New Jersey’s dune system, and there is a great need for restoration efforts along the coast. Recognizing the important role that dunes play in protecting our coast from storms, we expanded our annual planting. Approximately 900 students participated in our Beachgrasses in Classes program this year where they learned the importance of dunes and cared for their own American beachgrass plants in the classroom. All of the students were invited to the beach to transplant their growing beachgrass plants in Sandy Hook and Asbury Park.
On Saturday March 28th, 150 students and their parents came out to Sandy Hook proudly toting their thriving beachgrass plants. Despite the wind and chilly temperatures, the students successfully planted about 1000 beachgrass culms. Additonally, and Eagle Scout, Chris Frederico, purchased and planted about 2500 culms on the site.
Our second planting was in Asbury Park on Monday, March 30th. The north end beach is located next to Deal Lake in Asbury Park and is a site that many concerned citizens and environmental organizations have fought hard to preserve. The American Littoral Society is especially interested in this site because it is one of the only natural areas in Asbury Park and plays an important role in connecting residents to the natural world. The site has an extensive dune system, but it had been kept from thriving by uninformed citizens who often walked on the dunes to get to the beach. The American Littoral Society has hosted an annual planting at this beach since 2012. This year, we planted the first section of what will hopefully and extensive dune systerm in front of the Asbury Park boardwalk.
Special thanks to all of the schools that participated:
-Collier High School
-Red Bank Regional High School
-Middletown High School North
-Bradley Beach Elementary
-Long Branch Middle School
-Biotechnology High School
-Monmouth Beach Middle School
-Atlantic Highlands Elementary
-Holmdel High School
-Indian Hill School
-Mt Carmel School
Each year the American Littoral Society educates 1,000, plus their teachers and parents, about the importance of dunes and American beachgrass in the coastal ecosystem. We begin with an interactive classroom presentation that teaches students in grades K through 12 that dunes offer protection from storms and flooding and provide habitat for many coastal plants and animals. The students also learn that American beachgrass plays an important role in dune formation--the blades of beachgrass trap the sand as it blows from the beach and the deep roots of the beachgrass help to stabilize the dune below.
After learning about dunes and American beachgrass, each student plants a culm (dormant stalk of beachgrass) in a pot to care for at school for the next several weeks. Under their care, the beachgrass will awaken from dormancy and begin to grow new green blades. In April, all of the students are invited to our Earth Day celebration where they will transplant their beachgrass onto a dune in need of restoration. American beachgrass propogates by sending out new rhizomes and it is estimated that each culm will grow 5-20 new culms in one year's time.
For the first 7 years of this program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Materials Center has generously donated the dormant culms to the American Littoral Society. As part of this year's activities, we worked with the National Park Service to start our own beach grass nursery on Sandy Hook so that we can draw on plants native to the dunes we will be restoring.
How to Get Involved with Beachgrasses in Classes
The day of the planting there is also work for individual adult and youth volunteers--removing invasive plants from the dunes as well as planting additional beach grass.