Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini long envisioned a waterfront educational facility within the municipality, and this summer that conception has come to fruition. The township recently created the LBT Marine Education Field Station on Osborn Avenue and the bayfront in Holgate, housed currently in a temporary structure until the permanent building is constructed for the 2019 season.
“Next year we’ll have the new building, two stories, raised, and modeled after an old fisherman’s shack,” the mayor said Monday.
He added, “This is something I always thought was needed here: a place where people, kids, can hang out and learn,” about the Barnegat Bay ecosystem, the oysters and clams, the fish and birds, the aquatic vegetation, the bay islands. Through education, Mancini hopes, residents and visitors will gain a better understanding, and become more knowledgeable stewards, of the local environment.
“This facility will also be tied to other public access points in the township via a ‘water trail’ to promote water-related activities, such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, to link public spaces and get people out exploring,” noted township Sustainability Coordinator Angela Andersen. “Public access to the bay is really important to the township.”
And as Mancini pointed out, the municipality’s Island-wide shuttle system can also easily bring people to and from the Holgate site.
Last week, Andersen and summer intern Tim Ivancich were preparing the building for upcoming programs, and reveling in the site’s potential: plans for an upweller, to grow shellfish, out back, along with new vegetation; an osprey tower on a small island not far from shore, and marsh cam for off-site viewing; and, of course, the space for lab work and research, and for presentations from a number of eco-minded organizations.
“We have reached out to potential partners to start outlining some programs and developing an inventory of gear and equipment that we would want to furnish at the location as we seek grants,” said Andersen.
Among the likely partners are Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Alliance for a Living Ocean, N.J. Audubon, Save Barnegat Bay, LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, Barnegat Bay Partnership, Garden Club of Long Beach Island, Stockton Marine Field Station, Promoting Oyster Restoration Through Schools (PORTS), Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES), N.J. Marine Education Association, New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium and Ocean County Soil District.
Andersen also hopes to partner with local oyster farmers to educate about oyster restoration – the creation of oyster reefs, one of which is across the bay from the township’s new facility, with oyster shells first set with larval oysters in hatcheries – and the Oyster Recycling Program, for which the municipality has joined with Stockton University, Parsons Seafood, Jetty and its Jetty Rock Foundation, and area restaurants to gather empty oyster shells from the restaurant patrons to cure and then use to raise more oysters at those reef sites in the bay.
“Our goal is to educate and inspire and get people out and near Barnegat Bay,” Andersen summarized, while pointing out exhibits inside the field station that range from pollinators to plastic bags to dune restoration.
This Wednesday, Amy M. Williams, a post-doctoral associate with the Davidson Laboratory at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and a Long Beach Island resident, will be among the first presenters to christen the site. In her role as a coastal ecosystems extension agent for NJSGC, Williams plans to speak about ocean hazards – specifically “Sharks vs. Rip Currents” – at 10 a.m.
“Sharks are often seen as the most dangerous and life-threatening part of the ocean,” states a flyer for the talk, part of a collaborative effort between NJSGC and Stevens. “However, a more common and potential risk to bathers is the threat of hazardous rip currents, which kill over 100 people in the U.S. every year.”
Williams will explain how to spot a rip current, and how to react if caught in one.
“I am very excited to have a new marine education field station open on the south end of Long Beach Island,” she remarked Monday. “As a New Jersey Sea Grant Extension agent, I am always looking for places to conduct outreach programs, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a new one open on my island!
“I love the location that overlooks the bay, as I think the best way to teach about science is to be able to be immersed in the environment. It is great that I can present information inside a facility that has been designed and decorated to represent the importance of our environment, and then go outside and show examples of what I just talked about to make it real for the audience.”
She continued, “I look forward to presenting on rip current awareness and living shorelines this year and hope to add new programs for 2019 to my repertoire. I am looking forward to working with Angela and Tim to create interactive and exciting programs!”
Williams will visit the field station on Wednesday, Aug 1., at 11 a.m. for a presentation on protecting beaches and homes from the ocean. “Attendees will get to design and build their own living shoreline with natural, man-made structures,” as pointed out in the workshop information. “The goal is to protect the beach and coastal buildings while allowing people to still enjoy the water and animals to still have a safe home. When a hurricane comes, see how your design withstands the biggest waves!”
Williams will repeat the rip current workshop on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 10 a.m.
Also at the facility next month will be representatives from Project Terrapin, a program run out of MATES in Manahawkin. On Wednesday, Aug. 1, from 1 to 2 p.m., learn about the capture of blue crabs, and responsible crabbing. On Friday, Aug. 24, a program from noon to 1:30 p.m. will focus on diamondback terrapins, and attendees will have the opportunity to interact with live adult turtles and hatchlings.
In addition to all the additional environmental education programs the site plans to host, the township also imagines the space for research, meetings, art and history exhibits and classes, and more. Organizations interested in utilizing the facility can reach out to the township clerk’s office, at 609-361-1000.
For more information on the site, contact Andersen at email@example.com.
The LBT Marine Education Field Station is located at 127 West Osborn Ave.
— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch