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Restoring The Dunes At Island Beach State Park, One Christmas Tree At A Time

Dunes breached in a number of sections of the state park during Superstorm Sandy; sections of park slated to open sometime next week

Surf fisherman often trudged through the sand on Two-Bit Road at Island Beach State Park to make their way around the towering dunes, on their way to the beach and the waves.

But there is little in the way of a cut now, since Superstorm Sandy swamped the park on Oct. 29. And in many sections of Island Beach, the carefully cultivated, cherished dunes - strengthened by beach grass and protected by snow fence - are no more.

"There's a lot more devastation at this end of the beach," said Area Supervisor Ray Bukowski, as he steered his Ford F-250 down the nearly deserted beach in the park's Northern Natural Area.

The beach is littered with pilings, crab pots, storm debris and even a roller coaster car from nearby Seaside Heights.

The scene is much the same farther south, towards the two bathing beaches. Rhizomes of dead beach grass jut through the remaining dunes, which are now much smaller, scarped by wind and water.

But a hardy group of volunteers - including members of the Friends of Island Beach, the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association and Clean Ocean Action - made short work of lugging discarded Scotch pines, Frasier firs and basalm Christmas to trenches where the dunes once stood.

Katie Barnett - who works in the state Department of Environmental Protection's water resource management section - put the event together. She had three goals.

Getting donated Christmas trees was the easy part. Barnett put an announcement on the DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry's website. That's all it took to more than meet the goal of 1,000 trees.

"It went viral," Barnett said. "Within hours, we had offers for thousands of trees. We actually got 4,000 trees."

She needed volunteers to lug the trees to the trenches. Clean Ocean Action, kids from the Peddie School and the Friends of Island Beach stepped in.

Barnett also needed volunteers with trucks and beach buggies to ferry volunteer to the different sections and then bring them back to the command center at the pavilion at Ocean Bathing Beach No. 1. She got what she needed.

Cheryl, Dominique and DiGuglielmo gave up their Saturday morning to help with the trees. The DiGuglieilmo family have been unable to return to their Aldo Drive home in the Silverton section of Toms River since Sandy struck.

"We were devastated by the storm," Cheryl said. "We lost everything."

But they had a brief respite from their problems in the cold, crisp air on the sunlit beach that smelled like Christmas. A southeast wind blew briskly off the foam-capped waves.

Eventually, the dunes will be back, said Lynette Lurig, a research scientist with the DEP's Division of Water Resources.

"The dunes did what they were supposed to do," she said. "The winds will eventually blow back the sand to where it's supposed to be."

While some sections of the park look almost back to normal, others do not. Parts of the Shore Road have high banks of sand on either side, as if it had snowed.

The "epicenter" of the damage was in the A-7 section of the park, Bukowski said.

"All of the wind and water funneled through north and south and blew out the access way," he said.

Bukowski and his staff have been working seven days a week since Sandy hit. But it will pay off when they move back into their offices at the park next Tuesday.

A few sections of Island Beach are slated to open sometime next week, said DEP spokesman Bob Considine.

KC January 20, 2013 at 06:07 AM
It is great that people took the time an effort to accomplish this. I would love to see further clarification on how exactly the trees and the wind will create dunes. Is this methodology commonly employed? Any reply will be appreciated as I am really ignorant in this regard.
Keeping whats mine January 20, 2013 at 12:58 PM
I still think they will grow better standing up.
John M January 20, 2013 at 01:28 PM
My assumption is the trees would work the same way as the dune grass ... the wind blows sand, the sand hits the trees (or grass) and falls down, creating a dune. The difference here is that the grass will continue to grow, continuing to poke above the dune which will allow the dune to expand ... the trees won't. At least this is what I learned last year planting dune grass with the Boy Scouts.
Peaches Lukens January 20, 2013 at 03:03 PM
The Christmas trees are a type of band-aid to serve immediate damage but are not a long-term solution. There are 9 zones in a healthy beach and 5 of those make up various aspects of a healthy dune. Dune grass sends out stringers underneath the sand that act like a net to keep sand put...but they are not enough. Shrubs and trees suited for desert like living (sand) add more underground anchors. There needs to be several levels of dune with a very wide beach that will naturally grow in front of the dunes....but we dont do either. We just throw sand on the beach and expect it to stay there. How long did the last sandcastle you built hang around?
Comprehensive Flood Prevention January 20, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Peaches - You are correct about the need for stabilizing dunes...roots and rhisomes do the trick but take a long time to infiltrate. Now that you have done a little reading on beach protection measures, I wonder if you will devote some time to learning about wetland protection as a flood prevention measure. Last I saw, you were an enthusiastic supporter of wetland destruction for amenities like bike paths and dismissed all of the opposition as NIMBYs.
Ken January 20, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Nice to see people volunteering to help with Island Beach like this.
Peaches Lukens January 20, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Must be you again Sam...I didnt do a little reading on beach protection...I went to college and graduated with Environmental Science degree in 1981 and have been involved in learning and teaching environmental issues ever since. If the bike path issue would come up again Id still support it because I dont see it as you do Sam....your opinion is not the last word on issues, though you sure like to think it is. Last time I enter into this discussion with you till you learn some manners. And if this isnt Sam, then same goes for whoever you are.
DocJoe January 20, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I remember Sam putting his name on the last response to Peaches' short-sighted perspective on flood protection. And as I recall the comment by Sam was exceedingoly polite. Why would Peaches think he'd not do it here? Peaches, an environmental degree from 1981 or even one from this century, gives your positions no validity in and of itself. As is your custom, Peaches, you argue ad hominum and not on the merits. I'll leave it to Sam to defend himself. But I will underscore that your continued support for wetlands destruction for a superfluous bike path (esp where there are state listed threatened and endangered species resting and nesting habitat, emergent coastal maritime forest, and flood prone communities at their borders) demonstrates a similarly shallow understanding of barrier island geology and ecology. and, well, obstinance.
DocJoe January 20, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Here's Sam's response to Peaches last comment on beach dunes...Hardly impolite. http://oceancity.patch.com/articles/letter-to-editor-build-dunes-that-can-pass-the-test-of-time
janice January 21, 2013 at 12:07 AM
People who have no facts to back up their stance get personal and that is what many in OC have done when it comes to the bike path issue - just go after the messanger like Peaches is doing here. Destroying wetlands for an unnecessary bike path is absurd and considering what Sandy has done to the south end of OC, it is unimaginable that anyone would still advocate for destroying what little protective wetlands are left without a really good reason (surely not a bike path.) The dunes are important, the wetlands are important and the maritime forests are important for protection on a barrier island. Some people would rather hang way back with the old guard than admit that they are wrong because this is a small town and old relationships are more important to some people than the truth or the facts. Thank goodness it is not up to Peaches (or her friends on the so called Environmental Commission,) in anyway to make important environmental decisions since they are on the record as basing their decisions not on what, in fact, is stated but who, in fact, is making the statement. Hope that was polite enough for you.
avalon la rocca January 21, 2013 at 12:14 AM
guess what the christmas trees do help stabilize the sand ,.you can see where they where. its proven , just look at the layers planted in years gone by and you can see it
proud January 21, 2013 at 12:50 AM
I wonder if tree trunks would work as well. Plenty of them around.
Peaches Lukens January 21, 2013 at 12:54 AM
I owe Sam MAJOR apology and DocJoe, Sam and I have had our share of arguments...but I learned who it really was....NO SURPRISE THERE....geezzz let it go woman! End of dialogue for me!
Artist/Engineer January 21, 2013 at 12:44 PM
I still have my Fraser Fir Christmas Tree and need to dispose of it (there is no pickup of Christmas Trees in my community). I would like to donate it to a dune rebuilding project someplace not too far from home (Whiting). Can someone give me a name or address of a collection location where the trees will go to beach restoration? Thanks
Mike January 21, 2013 at 01:19 PM
This entire thing, using Christmas trees for the dunes, is just perfect. Eventually the trees become downgraded, and disappear, the dunes are used for the next storm(yes, there will be another, and another, ect.). Well done everyone involved.
Peter Saltpeter January 21, 2013 at 01:30 PM
The town of Bradley Beach had used the Christmas trees and it saved the town from flooding lost the dunes but not the homes .
JerseyGirl January 21, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I can't wait for the beaches to reopen again so I can ride my horse on the beach again in the off season. JERSEY STRONG!
Sal January 21, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Hint: The Egyptians did not build the Pyramids using sand. The Roamans did not build the Colosseum using sand. The Chinese did not build the Great Wall of China using sand. Are you starting to get the picture? Children build sandcastles using sand and the next high tide washes them away. Do it correctly one time and it lasts. or Do it wrong over and over and over endlessly over again.
Mike January 21, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Sal; They are called SAND dunes for a reason. We are not building pyramids, colosseums or great walls. We are building SAND dunes.
fed up January 22, 2013 at 01:05 AM
Where can you do that?
Sal January 22, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Hi Mike, you are absolutely correct__they are wasting their time and effort building "sand dunes" once again that will wash away again with the next storm. Although Sandy was our worst storm since 1960___it was still a very mild storm compared to a CAT 2,3,4,5 hurricane. Rebuilding sand dunes that did not hold up very well in Sandy which was just barely a CAT 1 storm, should be expected to fare far worse in a CAT 2,3.
Sal January 22, 2013 at 10:10 AM
hi Mike, I believe that it was Albert Einstein who once said "Repeating the same failed experiment over and over again and expecting a different result is clear sign of insanity." There are far better, far more permanent and yet still cost effective ways to do it once and have it last for many decades. One thing is certain___the current method has been tried over and over again___and it is NOT working. A far more effective method would be to pile up broken concrete, brick, concrete block and other similar construction demolition debris and cover it in layers of newly poured cement first and then create sand dunes on top of that solid base that can resist wave damages..
CTA January 22, 2013 at 06:56 PM
It seems that none of you have studied much coastal geology or coastal engineering. Basic principle , you can't have a beach and a sea wall at the same time. Wave action will remove the beach until the sea wall fails and falls in the water. Note please, I did not say storm waves, regular waves on a daily basis will move and remove sand until structural failure. The basic concept of dune systems in storm management is that the dune will store sand and protect what's behind for two tidal cycles since that's about the storm duration in this latitude and coastal type . By the way, sandy lasted two tidal cycles. I would suggest reading "the beaches are moving" by dr Orrin pilkey of unc Or one of his other books " living with the jersey shore'. The use of Xmas trees and other brush dates back to the Middle Ages and is useful in slowing and trapping wind blown sand from leaving the beach area. The oc Jaycees did a several years long tree project in oc during the 70's that built dune lines that lasted into the major storms of the 90's. now the Corps of Engineers have developed a one size fits all sand management plans that costs lots of $$$ and doesn't really work in the long term , but city government likes it. In the long term the island will wash away, you going to be here for it? Probably not, Will you see the changes? Yep......
JerseyGirl January 23, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Island Beach State Park, they allow us to ride on the beaches (with our personal horses) between October 1st or October 31st - April 1st
JerseyGirl January 23, 2013 at 05:39 PM
IBSP is the ONLY beach in NJ where they allow us to ride. Wildwood talked about allowing us to ride our horses on the beach, but I don't think that it got the official "OK"
Sam Lavner January 23, 2013 at 09:58 PM
CTA - Too bad your opening statement and overall tone are so beligerent - that probably makes readers less open to your points. You are correct on the substance (never mind the part about Dr. Pilkey being at UNC - he's at Duke and I studied development on coastal barrier islands under him at Duke while I was a grad student at UNC). Do you have any suggestions that could help us protect our beaches? You know, other than what not to do?
CTA January 23, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Oops, my bad on the duke....my nc friends will later abuse me for that. Solutions? There are no long term solutions other than leave the islands. If we stay, build higher, stronger, better dune systems. The corps of engineers needs to come up with a custom beach replacement for each zone. Then there is the issue of cost, where does the money come from? The insurance costs are headed skyward also. Change is happening now and will only accelerate...north Carolina has banned all hard structures on the shoreline and other states are making the replacement of any structure more than 50% damaged impossible.....private land returning to public usage, Now that will stir some folks up! Sandy, sorry to say is just the start...
Sam Lavner January 23, 2013 at 10:43 PM
I know I asked just about beach protection, but you seem to address island-wide mitigation. If that is correct, should the measures be limited to the beach and the built environment? What about the wetlands and inlets? Do you think they factor in flooding and flood mitigation?
Greg January 23, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Aj best stop spreading false rumors about people. Aren't u in enough trouble already, boy?

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