Slade Dale Volunteer Day supports restoration of salt marsh

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During a special volunteer event April 24, Mayor Robert Sabosik and Councilmembers William Borowsky, Antoinette DePaola and Charlene Archer joined borough environmental commission members and leaders with the American Littoral Society at the Slade Dale Nature Sanctuary to lend a hand completing the branch box breakwaters to help re-establish the shoreline of the salt marsh. [COURTESY OF FRANK PANNUCCI JR.]

POINT PLEASANT — Local residents, borough leaders, environmental advocates and leaders with the American Littoral Society celebrated Earth Day on Saturday at the Slade Dale Nature Sanctuary, where efforts continue to re-establish the shoreline of the salt marsh.

In what was also a special volunteer day on Saturday, Mayor Robert Sabosik and councilmembers William Borowsky, Antoinette DePaola and Charlene Archer joined the borough’s environmental commission and the American Littoral Society at the sanctuary. 

They pitched in to help complete the branch box breakwaters started at the site two years ago.  Volunteers helped place recycled Christmas trees into the waters of Beaverdam Creek, with the aim of reversing erosion that has been eating away at the shoreline.

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“The Slade Dale restoration is proceeding well,”  Dennis Blazak, chair of the environmental commission, said this week. “Saturday’s volunteers worked alongside the American Littoral Society to protect the Slade Dale Preserve as it protects our community from flooding. After two years, the Christmas trees installed to lower wave energy began to break down, so new trees were placed on top.

“Volunteers noted that sediment is building up along the eastern edge of the marsh with ribbed mussels present along the shoreline, signs of marsh health. Danielle McCulloch, a coastal biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, helped place the new trees into the breakwaters. She is an expert in salt marsh restoration and eager to see community-based storm-resilience projects like this replicated across Barnegat Bay.”

According to a release from the American Littoral Society, during this first-of-its-kind restoration project in New Jersey, branch box breakwaters made from recycled Christmas trees and Christmas tree vanes aim to help prevent further erosion, foster sedimentation and restore the nearly 13-acre sanctuary, a tidal tributary that flows into the Metedeconk River and, eventually, Barnegat Bay, which has eroded approximately 300 feet over the past century. 

“We’ve learned quite a bit from this. Part of our restoration work relies on adaptive management and during COVID we couldn’t get out to the project site as much as we wanted to. This was one of our first times probably, really looking at the project itself and the benefits it can have and we realized that we need to visit it yearly and add Christmas trees every year,” said Capt. Al Modjeski, habitat restoration program director with the American Littoral Society.

“One of the things we noticed is that a lot of the Christmas trees deteriorated that we had put in originally and that makes sense … we just thought they’d have a little bit more life where we would revisit every two years versus one year. We did see a lot more sediment back there, which is what we want to see. We’re seeing sediment and not seeing a loss and … that sediment is staying in the system and that is where we want it to be.

“I saw sand back there where I hadn’t seen sand before so that is good to see and tells you probably some really rough kind of surf came through there, some kind of wave action, to bring that. So it is working and we can maximize how it works and that is by going back every year and doing this again.”

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