Public Access to Open in 2017
Toward the end of summer, the New Jersey Department of Transportation will begin grading along Bonnet Island to create a recreation area as part of a restoration project involving land owned by the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The grading is expected to take a few months to complete, said Daniel Triana, DOT public information officer.
The project is a unique collaboration among state and federal agencies to restore part of the area, south of the Causeway Bridge and west of Long Beach Island, to a salt marsh and to provide public access and walking trails once the site opens, which is expected in late 2017.
“Public access improvements will include a recreation area with benches, trails, storyboards and two pavilions overlooking the bay and wetlands area, where visitors can enjoy the surroundings and get a glimpse of the wildlife, such as migrating birds,” Triana said. “A parking area is being constructed near the entrance for convenient access.”
The restoration work, which began in March, is part of a mitigation plan approved by the DEP for environmental impacts from the Route 72 bridge construction. The initial work included clearing trees and vegetation to prepare the site, which was completed by April 1, per state regulation, Triana noted. Due to environmental restrictions, work will stop and start up again throughout the project.
The site, which is a former confined disposal facility (CDF), will see large-scale on-site transfer of soil to create tidal marsh. The site was a salt marsh prior to CDF creation, Triana said.
The project also includes the retrofitting of two existing stormwater basins within the Barnegat Bay watershed in northern Ocean County, which will remove harmful nitrogen from stormwater runoff before it gets discharged into Barnegat Bay.
“This will improve the health of the bay by reducing damaging algae blooms, which contribute to the degradation of submerged aquatic vegetation, which serves as a natural habitat for many species native to the bay,” Triana said. —K.A.E.