In 2009, Bradley Beach had a parking lot at the northern end of Ocean Avenue. Almost 12 years later, that sandy lot has become a natural habitat for migrating birds and wildlife, serving also to protect Bradley’s residents from ocean surges and hurricane force winds.
With support from the American Littoral Society, Monmouth County and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the site was restored to the type of maritime forest that would have been common along the Jersey shore hundreds of years ago. The restoration project has been recognized by environmental organizations throughout New Jersey as a model for resiliency and coastal protection and has received national recognition and numerous awards.
"The project incorporated innovative design and has provided a nature-based model for future resiliency projects along the east coast," said Capt. Alek Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Director for the American Littoral Society. “Perhaps most important, the area is heavily trafficked by people, and serves as a visible example of how natural systems can benefit shore communities.”
It all started with the support of Bradley Beach’s former Mayor, Julie Schreck, who’s early efforts to engage environmentalists, and to secure county and private funding, has culminated in the completion of “Phase 3” of this decade-long sustainability project. Ms. Schreck was mayor from 2008-2012, and died in 2014.
On Tuesday, May 25, the site was formally dedicated and received an official name: The Julie Schreck Maritime Forest of Bradley Beach.
About 50 people, including county Legislators, as well as public and private sponsors, gathered at the site for the ceremony, which recognized the efforts of former Mayor Schreck in helping to make this habitat a reality.
The project began when a small army of volunteers, Monmouth County Master Gardeners, and borough and county staffers, came together to return a long-time beachfront parking lot at the end of the Bradley Beach boardwalk to its natural state, using plants common along the Jersey Shore before humans began developing beachfront property.
The borough’s maritime forest has been described as an oasis of natural beauty in an area of the state some would argue is overdeveloped. It was created after Hurricane Sandy as a demonstration of the resiliency of vegetation to storms, to enhance the local ecology, and to further protect the town and Fletcher Lake. The Maritime Forest has since been recognized nationally and received numerous awards.
The maritime forest provides a number of benefits, including localized storm protection, habitat for wildlife, a decrease in rainwater runoff, and improvement in water quality of the adjacent lake because of the natural vegetated buffers along the shoreline.
Phase 3 funding was provided by Bradley Beach Borough, members of the NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and the Bradley Beach Environmental Commission. The US Fish and Wildlife Service donated plants and Atlantic Lifts of Point Pleasant donated the bench and seating materials. Special thanks to the Bradley Beach Department of Public Works.
8th Graders from Bradley Beach Elementary working to complete Phase 3 of The Julie Schreck Maritime Forest of Bradley Beach.