Feds to Open Bonnet Island Section of Forsythe Refuge Next Week

Jun 20, 2018

For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, a parcel of land on Bonnet Island will be opened to the public as part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

“The new parcel will open on June 27,” said Keena Nichelle Graham, visitor services manager for the refuge. The grand opening ceremony is slated for 10 a.m. “There are two picnic pavilions, a gravel walking trail and bike racks. All of the new plantings are native trees and shrubs so that native wildlife will have the habitat that they need to survive and thrive.”

Most of the work, the environmental mitigation of approximately 7 acres on Bonnet Island, referred to by the state and federal government as Cedar Bonnet Island, was funded under contract five of the $350 million rehabilitation and expansion project of the Causeway, according to Dan Triana, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation. One acre is wetlands, 2 acres are intertidal/subtidal shallows, and more than 3 acres consist of riparian buffer vegetation, he said.

“Included in the department’s environmental mitigation project is a 1-mile walking path with pedestrian benches, two gazebo overlooks with picnic tables and interpretive signs located along the path,” he said. “The path will provide views of Atlantic City, the Manahawkin Bay bridges, LBI and coastal marshes.”

A small parking lot was also constructed adjacent to Bonnet Island along Route 72 eastbound that provides a sidewalk leading up to the walking path. The island is part of the Forsythe Refuge, located between the bay bridge and the thorofare bridges on Route 72 eastbound. The property was acquired in the 1990s by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has not been opened for public use since, according to Triana.

The DOT worked closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other stakeholders on the mitigation work on Bonnet Island, which began in February 2015 and includes wetland creation, mitigation for freshwater wetlands, modification of two existing stormwater basins within the Barnegat Bay watershed, and public access improvements.

The Forsythe Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats. The refuge is located in one of the Atlantic flyway’s most active flight paths, making it an important link in seasonal bird migration. Its value for the protection of water birds and their habitat continues to increase as people develop the New Jersey shore for human use.  —G.G.S.

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