HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS TO PLANT DUNE GRASS AT ISLAND BEACH STATE PARK ON SATURDAY ANNUAL PLANTING EFFORT HELPS PROTECT AND BUILD CRITICAL DUNE SYSTEM

March 24, 2016

(TRENTON, N.J.) ― More than 300 participants will plant a record 40,000 American Beachgrass plants at Island Beach State Park this Saturday, March 26, as part of the park’s largest annual volunteer effort of planting dune grass.

Volunteers with AmeriCorps New Jersey, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Friends of Island Beach State Park and others will plant from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The 40,000 American Beachgrass will mark the most that has been planted at one time at the park. Participants will meet at Ocean Bathing Area 1, which is the most popular and visible area at the park in Ocean County.

“The annual dune grass planting program is one of the most popular volunteer efforts at Island Beach State Park, bringing together hundreds of volunteers to help strengthen the dune system while making the beach even more beautiful,” said Mark Texel, Director of the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry.

“Dune grasses are vital to protecting the island because they hold the dunes together with their web-like root systems,” added Jen Clayton, park manager at Island Beach State Park. “This year’s effort should be especially successful thanks to the number of American Beachgrass plants secured for Saturday’s event.”

“We’re delighted to continue Barnegat Bay Partnership’s funding support for this dune restoration project at Island Beach State Park,” said Stan Hales, Director of the Barnegat Bay Partnership. “Dunes provide vital habitat for coastal wildlife species, including both endangered plants and animals. And as we all learned during Superstorm Sandy, plant-stabilized dunes provide a protective storm buffer for coastal communities – an almost priceless ecosystem service.”

In the event of inclement weather, the event will be re-scheduled for Saturday, April 2.

American Beachgrass is leafy, grows in bunches and reaches heights of two to three feet. The spike-like seed head is about 10 inches long and appears in late July or August. Leaves are long and narrow.

These plants are especially important as the dune system as Island Beach State Park continues to build, with the help of dune fencing, after the devastating beach loss caused by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. As beachgrass grows, the roots, called rhizomes, form a weave within the sand, which then forms the core of the dune’s stability. Additionally, blades of dune grass trap even more sand as wind blows, allowing the dune to grow naturally. The planting of dune grass also is a fun and easy activity for the entire family.

Nearly 10 miles long, Island Beach State Park preserves one of the last stretches of undeveloped Atlantic barrier island ecosystem in the region. More than 1 million people visit the park annually. Visitors to the park this year will be able to enjoy the season’s plantings, as they are next to a main parking area, as well as the main walkway to the park’s most popular bathing beach.

To volunteer for Saturday’s effort, please email Lindsey Sigmund at ambassadorwma13@gmail.com. Sigmund is the AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassador for the Barnegat Bay Watershed.

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