The Beachcomber – Memorial Day

The Greening of Long Beach Township

By JULIET KASZAS-HOCH | May 25, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Reusable bags and bottles are the rule, not the exception.

The future is green, and Long Beach Township is on board. LBI’s largest municipality – encompassing 12 divided miles of the Island – has a demonstrated history of environmental initiatives: plastic bag and balloon release bans, an open space tax, Sustainable Jersey certification, energy efficiency upgrades, water bottle refilling stations to encourage reusable bottles, a shuttle bus program to reduce cars on the road, and the Oyster Recycling Program, among others.

“We have definitely blazed a trail of sustainability over the past decade,” said Angela C. Andersen, sustainability coordinator for the municipality, which is led by Mayor Joseph Mancini and Commissioners Ralph Bayard and Joseph Lattanzi.

Last year, Mancini remarked during a board of commissioners meeting, “Single-use plastic bags are just out of control. They’re on the water; they’re blowing by on the beach; they’re everywhere. I think it’s time” to take action to reduce the number of plastic bags in the waste stream and the environment, he asserted. And the municipality did just that.

An ordinance that went into effect May 1 prohibits businesses in the township – which includes Acme Market and Wawa – from distributing single-use plastic carryout bags.

“The Board of Commissioners of the Township of Long Beach believes it has a duty to investigate and implement any and all necessary and proper steps the Township can take to protect the environment and the public health, welfare and safety,” the plastic bag ban ordinance states. The measure also points out that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as many as one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. It’s estimated that less than 5 percent of that plastic is recycled.

“It is beyond dispute,” the ordinance reads, “that the use of single-use plastic carryout bags has a severe and negative environmental impact on the local and global environment as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions emitted to produce such bags, the land-based and ocean-based pollution created, the hazards posed to wildlife, the blocking of storm drains by plastic, the hazards posed to sources of water for humans, and the negative impact on the ecosystem and food chain as a whole.”

Now, customers are to bring their own reusable bags to stores in the township, or, depending on the shop, they may have to pay a small fee for recycled paper bags.

Long Beach Township taxpayers are entitled to two free reusable bags courtesy of the municpality; homeowners can stop by town hall and pick theirs up if they haven’t already.

Also within the last year, the township adopted an ordinance to prohibit the intentional release of helium balloons, as they often end up in the water – where they can entangle, or be ingested by, sea life – or they end up on land, as litter.

At a meeting in June 2017, the municipality offered attendees a pamphlet promoting a “Balloon-Free LBI.” As the literature noted, “Balloons are a big part of the plastic problem that’s destroying our oceans and killing more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million birds each year.”

Latex balloons, the pamphlet adds, take years to biodegrade, while foil balloons are even more attractive to wildlife, and can also cause electric outages and fires when entangled in power lines.

“We’re trying to rid LBI of this floating litter,” states the pamphlet, which credits the Garden Club of Long Beach Island, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Readings from the Northside and BalloonsBlow.org for the information and photos. “Please help us by opting for more friendly alternatives (for decoration and advertisement): banners and flags, pinwheels, bubble machines, garden spinners, wildflower seed balls or tissue pom-poms.”

As 2017 headed to a close, the township included an open space conservation referendum on the Nov. 7 election ballot. The referendum, which passed, established an open space trust fund. Homeowners now pay an additional 1 cent per $100 of assessed value for the annual local property tax levy. The amount raised is matched by the county, and all the funds are utilized for the conservation of open space.

The township “has revitalized and preserved, and continues to revitalize and preserve, several areas of open space areas … for recreation and conservation purposes,” the related ordinance states, “and the Board of Commissioners has concluded that the continued acquisition and preservation of lands for recreation and parks, water resource and floodplain protection, environmental protection of wetlands, the watershed, and wildlife habitat, and historic preservation purposes is of vital public importance and shall further contribute to the public health, welfare, and safety.”

LBT has worked to increase and rejuvenate park space and public access points throughout the municipality. At 68th Street in Brant Beach, from west to east, there have been recent upgrades to Bayview Park, fairly new athletics courts and a dog park installed outside town hall, and a brand-new pavilion built to overlook the ocean beach. In addition, the township built tennis courts near the Acme, and created a Veterans Park in Beach Haven Terrace.

Meanwhile, in the Beach Haven Gardens section of the township, the Hideaway Cover Maritime Nature Trail winds and loops through varied vegetation down to the bay. “It’s a beautiful 3-acre waterfront tract,” Mancini has said of the Hideaway Cove site, which is the municipality’s largest park area.

The site is also part of a “water trail” that the township is establishing via linked public points of access to the bay. Bayview Park in Brant Beach, New Jersey Avenue in Beach Haven Terrace and a lot on Osborn Avenue in Holgate – soon to become a marine education field station – are, presently, the other locations that comprise the water trail.

As Andersen pointed out, “We just got our temporary buildings for the new bayfront marine education field station on Osborn Avenue.”

Also dotting the township are water bottle refilling stations – tankless units that provide free, cold, filtered water to anyone with a reusable receptacle – that the municipality installed years ago thanks to a donation to Alliance for a Living Ocean. “Long Beach Township is proud to be a pioneer in this effort to minimize single-use plastics,” Andersen said at the time. “The hydration station project makes economic and environmental sense for our community. Plastic bottles are a big source of litter in the coastal waters and on the beaches.”

The refilling stations were one of several initatives included on the township’s application to become certified by Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support communities as they pursue sustainability programs.

Andersen first registered the municipality with Sustainable Jersey in 2009, shortly after the program launched. To become Sustainable Jersey certified, municipalities must submit documentation to show completion of various sustainability actions, which could include, for example, energy tracking and management, climate adaptation, creation of a water conservation ordinance, and implementation of a prescription drug safety and disposal program.

And, as Andersen pointed out, certification “is not a one-and-done deal,” but rather “a continual commitment to the causes and the community by the town leadership.”

In addition to the water bottle refilling stations, qualifying projects in the township included energy-efficient upgrades at the municipal complex and expansion of, and improvements to, the municipality’s recycling depot in the public works yard, as well as more complex long-term planning and resiliency projects.

The rain barrel installed outside town hall and the LBI Shuttle Bus Program were recognized.

2013 marked the pilot run of the transportation system, developed by Lattanzi in partnership with the Long Beach Island Chamber of Commerce and the other Island municipalities, and with support from former Capt. Paul Vereb of the township police department. The shuttles were a terrific success, and this summer, riders will be asked to pay a small fee so the program can continue to evolve according to demand.

As Lattanzi said in 2014, benefits of the shuttle service are that “it reduces the number of cars in the summer; it reduces drunk driving at night; it helps promote businesses that were adversely affected by the storm (Superstorm Sandy, in 2012), helping people move around and increase commerce; and it will also serve a secondary purpose for emergency management.”

The township has added one other vehicle to the road lately: the Oyster Recycling Program truck, which drives to participating restaurants to pick up empty oyster shells that are then used to raise more oysters in Barnegat Bay. The program is a community collective driven by LBT, Parsons Seafood, Stockton University, Jetty and its Jetty Rock Foundation.

After the township picks up the shells from the local businesses, they are taken to Parsons or Stockton, where they cure for six months, and are then set with spat – oyster larvae – in the Parsons mariculture tanks before Stockton vessels deploy them onto the reef site and monitor the growth and survivorability.

As Jetty explains on its website, jettylife.com, funding from the Barnegat Bay Partnership “established the Tuckerton Reef in 2016 with aquaculture-set oyster spat on whelk shell and transplanted seed from the Mullica River. The two-acre research site is located in the Middle Grounds area of Little Egg Harbor Bay, with initial and future aquaculture work done by Parsons and the scientific monitoring by Stockton.”

The area’s oyster industry was thriving a century ago, but, as a BBP blog post notes at barnegatbaypartnership.org, “Years of pollution, development, overfishing and diseases have reduced oyster populations drastically in the bay. That’s unfortunate, since oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of bay water a day and create three-dimensional habitat for fish and other invertebrates.”

“We really have to get our oyster reefs and clam beds back to where they were, for two reasons: it keeps the water clean, and it’s part of the heritage of Barnegat Bay,” Mancini said when the shell recycling program began.

Today, fortunately, oyster farming is making a comeback, with benefit to the bay – to its cleanliness and biodiversity – as well as to the local economy, and to diners, who are now able to enjoy more-plentiful oysters from various nearby farms, with each type of oyster offering its own unique taste.

Local restaurants are now readying for the busy season, which means more oysters eaten, and more shells to collect. Current partners include: Ship Bottom Shellfish; The Arlington, in Ship Bottom; Howard’s Restaurant in Beach Haven Gardens; Delaware Oyster House in Beach Haven Terrace; Blue Water Café in Haven Beach; Stefano’s in North Beach Haven; Bistro 14, Parker’s Garage, The Black Whale, Tuckers Tavern and Triton in Beach Haven; The Old Causeway in Manahawkin; and, beginning Memorial Day, Boulevard Clams in Surf City.

“This is the first full season” for the Oyster Recycling Program, said Andersen. “We tried it out beginning last year, and it’s been really successful. A thousand baskets covers an approximately 1-acre reef area, and we were just under that last year: We had about 800 baskets. We definitely have a goal of well exceeding that number this year.

“Without leadership in your government or agency, this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” she added, crediting township officials for getting behind the project.

“We have always worked, and will continue to work, toward sustainability.”

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