Volunteers lend a hand―and a hammer―to save an island off the Jersey shore.

By Staci Coleman Mitchell
August 12, 2008
Courtesy of Mordecai Land Trust

When the federal government reduced funding for restoration projects, Mordecai Land Trust (MLT) volunteers didn’t get angry―they got to work. They rolled up their collective sleeves and stepped into the waves to protect a 42-acre island in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey.

Although Mordecai’s predicament isn’t unique―there are similar islands eroding up and down the coast―its habitat and supporters are. A nesting site for several endangered and threatened bird species and a haven for winter flounder, the island erodes at a rate of 3 to 6 feet per year. Luckily, MLT members aren’t afraid of a little manual labor.

Sixty-eight participants carried out Phase I of the Southwest Mordecai Ecosystem Restoration project. With grants from several private groups and government agencies, they installed BioLogs, biodegradable fiber netting that buffers waves and fosters the regrowth of vegetation. They also planted additional grasses to help reestablish, then strengthen, the vulnerable shore. Phase II, which is in the planning stages, focuses on restoring already eroded areas.

According to Doug Gaffney, a consultant on the project through Ocean and Coastal Consultants Inc., MLT volunteers really “get” the importance of this habitat. “Nobody lives there, and there’s no monetary gain from saving the island,” he says. “It really is restoration for restoration’s sake.”

Mordecai Land Trust; mordecaimatters.org