Cousteau National Reserve Opens Grassle Marsh Trail

Public May Explore Estuarine Saltmarsh in Little Egg Harbor
Jul 03, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson AWAITING VISITORS: Jacques Cousteau Estuarine Research Reserve education coordinator Kaitlin Gannon introduces new observation platform over Grassle Marsh.

A walking trail at the Grassle Marsh in Little Egg Harbor was dedicated on Oct. 26, 2017 to Fred and Judy Grassle, the couple that founded the Rutgers Institute for Marine Sciences. The dedication marked the 20th anniversary of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.

At that time, the reserve was roughly laid out and a half-mile boardwalk through the marsh had been completed. It was named, “Life on the Edge Trail.”

Still to come were some interpretive signs along the trail, a viewing scope on the boardwalk and an education cart. Now in place, these make the trail an educational experience, Kaitlin Gannon, education coordinator at the reserve, remarked on Friday, June 29.

“The signs were made by Swing Graphics. And each one includes a fun thing for kids to do along the trail – kind of a scavenger hunt,” she said.

The trail is marked by big slices of tree trunks, an unfortunate result of two winters of nor’easters and heavy snowstorms. But the trunks of these big pines have attracted flickers and other woodpeckers to the trail.

The Americans With Disabilities Act accessible trail and boardwalk across the marsh ends in a rectangle platform across the water, so visitors can view minnows and fiddler crabs, as well as egrets attracted to the water’s edge. A viewing scope was purchased with help from the Southern Ocean Ladies Running Club. They raised two years of donations from the “Shamrocks for the Shore” race fundraiser to help purchase the scope.

The trail was made possible by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which forwarded funds from a New Jersey Department of Transportation Recreational Trails Program grant, explained Lisa Auermuller, assistant manager of the Cousteau Reserve.

“We had been talking about this type of trail for many years, but the grant funding sources finally made it a reality,” she added.

The trail is also the recipient of an outdoor mobile program cart that can be “wheeled in” with activities designed to experience the reserve as a living laboratory for trail explorers.

“A number of volunteers have dedicated time to help us with the design and construction of the trail. Most notably the Ocean County Department of Corrections, through their Clean Communities Program; and two years’ worth of summer field research classes taught by Dr. Rick Lathrop from Rutgers University.

“We are really excited that after years of very hard work by JCNERR staff, volunteers and local businesses, we are open to the public to come enjoy the trail,” said Auermuller.

She thanked a number of local businesses who helped in the construction: Nelke, Constantine and Associates, designing the boardwalk; DuBois Environmental Consultants for wetland delineation work; Buterick Bulkheading for the boardwalk; Swing Graphics for interpretive sign design; Northstar Signs for producing the signs; Typestries Sign and Design for the entrance kiosk signs; JA Tree Service for hazardous tree removal work; and Ranco Construction for constructing the kiosk.

The Grassle Marsh Trail is located next to the JCNERR education center at 130 Great Bay Boulevard in Little Egg Harbor. It is open to the public during daylight hours. Dogs must be on a leash and be cleaned up after. Other good stewardship rules should also be followed.

– Pat Johnson

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