Dune Work, Naturally

Feb 06, 2019
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To the Editor:

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has long been the champion of the 1.1 million-acre Pinelands National Reserve stretching across New Jersey, protecting it and advocating for it since 1989. Thanks to a grant provided by National Fish and Wildlife, PPA has been able to extend our environmental stewardship from beyond the forest to the coasts.

In an effort to improve beach habitat management and resiliency, PPA has partnered with Raritan Valley Community College to strengthen the dune system along our shores. Dunes play a vital role in alleviating storm damage and provide habitat to many animals and plants. Many New Jersey towns recognize the importance of dunes and use beach replenishment to construct them. However, fills and replenishments are costly, and studies show that artificial dunes typically contain a lower volume of sand and limit more visibility than dunes that form naturally.

PPA and RVCC’s project promotes better back beach management to facilitate the growth of natural dunes by installing plant protection strips. The best part about these strips is they only require the installation of posts and signs along the back ends of beaches, protecting that area from raking and motor vehicles, which prevent plants that collect sediment from establishing. When left alone, these strips show a substantial increase in sand accumulation, leading to the development of incipient dunes and promoting continued growth of vegetation.

The project has shown promising results on public lands like Island Beach State Park, and our team is inviting coastal communities to join us and bring this work to their beaches at no cost. Several municipalities have already agreed to take part, and with our teamwork New Jersey will be one step closer to building stronger and more resilient shorelines.

Rebecca Hilbert

Pinelands Preservation Alliance

Southampton Township, N.J.

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