On Thursday, May 23, the American Littoral Society, Bradley Beach Municipal officials and project partners came together near the north end of the Bradley Beach boardwalk for the official unveiling of the town’s restored maritime forest.
The maritime forest is a model for other coastal communities and provides sustainable protection for New Jersey’s coastal lakes, many of which are in jeopardy. The plants help protect against storms, reduce sand and debris going into Fletcher Lake, provide habitat, and beautify the area.
"With our famous dunes, our soon to be natural shoreline at Sylvan Park and our Maritime Forest, Bradley Beach is blessed to work with individuals and organizations that are committed to forward thinking and have real compassion for the coast,” said Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad. “Much of this progress has been possible thanks to the help of the American Littoral Society."
Work to create a maritime forest in the town began after Hurricane Sandy. 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 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.”
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.
In August, 2018 the Littoral Society recognized Mayor Engelstad and Bradley Beach for the work that has been done there to protect and preserve the coast by making them a recipient of our Coastal Conservation Award.
In April of this year, the town signed an agreement with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the American Littoral Society that bans any construction on the site for 10 years, while also providing federal technical support, native plants, and equipment to maintain the site.
“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,” Mayor Engelstad said. "They have also helped to bring the community together, because the work was largely done by the people of Bradley Beach, who supported the town's effort and volunteered their own time to do the work."
"The Littoral Society is honored to have supporters such as these," said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society. "Their efforts not only help us continue our work protecting and preserving the coast but also provide an example for others."
Event attendees included staff from USFWS, members of the American Littoral Society, representatives from the Bradley Beach Environmental Commission, staff and council members from Bradley Beach Borough, and representatives from the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership.