BELMAR, NJ — A third dune planting has been completed along the Belmar beachfront — this time between 14th and 15th Avenues, just steps from the boardwalk.
The block-long “dune garden” of various types of beach grass, native and other suitable plants adds to the growing beachscape barrier designed to help protect the oceanfront from powerful storms. The other plantings are situated near the12th Avenue beach playground and the 1,500-foot stretch of sand between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
This time, the borough’s Environmental Commission partnered with a nonprofit nursery to purchase the plants for $350, while the Public Works Department handled the actual planting, said Belmar Council President Thomas Brennan.
It represented a substantial cost savings for the borough, which paid nearly $5,000 to purchase the plants from a specialty landscape company for the dune garden completed in late 2018 between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
Because of the lower pricing, Brennan is hopeful the borough can have all 20 blocks of beachfront buffered by a beachscape within several years, working under its new beach management plan, which was approved this past spring by the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“If it’s only $350 to do one block of planting, then we need to work with the DEP … and see what we can do to get the whole beach done, and in a couple years, watch the dunes come up and protect our boardwalk and buildings,” said Brennan, who serves as council liaison to the Environmental Commission.
This past spring, Public Works Director Michael Campbell collaborated with state and federal officials to develop the 127-page beach management plan, whose goal is preserve the natural habitat of the fauna and flora, while ensuring proper safeguards are in place for storm protection and recreation along the 1.3-mile beachfront.
Meanwhile, DEP recently released its annual plant census that shows the state’s coastal beaches south of Sandy Hook have experienced a significant surge in the number of the rare seabeach amaranth plant, which also has been documented along the Belmar beach.
In fact, the endangered plant species was found along Belmar’s Third Avenue beach in late 2018, prompting officials to section off that strip of sand along the boardwalk. In addition to 16 plants discovered in that “recreational zone” of the beachfront, another 11 plants were found in the “protected zone” — the natural beach area near First Avenue, which also is a nesting area for the endangered piping plovers.
As part of the DEP census, biologists with the DEP and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey counted 7,195 plants along the south coastal beaches — a more than 600 percent increase from the 2018 total of 1,053 plants. Similarly, 1,591 of the plants are at Island Beach State Park, compared with 307 found there in 2018 — a more than 500 percent increase.
The presence of seabeach amaranth — a low-growing plant with fleshy, spinach-like leaves and reddish stems — is an indicator of a healthy or recovering habitat. It is one of only six plants in the state that are listed as either endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To learn more about the seabeach amaranth, click here.
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