State and federal officials hosted a public meeting Tuesday night at the Stafford Township Municipal Building to gather comments after outlining plans to "restore and enhance" 45 acres located within the southeastern portion of Cedar Bonnet Island, which is part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge Manager Virginia Retting opened the meeting and said the plan had grown out of the need to restore and mitigate Cedar Bonnet Island (CBI) following the construction of the new Manahawkin Bay Bridge.
“Out of the mitigation plan came the idea to restore CBI, which was a dredge disposal site, to a wildlife refuge with access to the public,” she said.
calls for the creation of 1.6 acres of new tidal channels to open the island up
to tidal flow, which is critical to restoration of a habitat area, she added.
In addition, 19 acres of coastal wetlands and 18 acres of upland wildlife habitat will be created.
The island was created in the 1950s by building a enclosure with a clay berm around it, sort of like a bathtub, then filling it with dredging from construction projects in the area, said Vinny Turner, a wildlife biologist the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Over the years without any flow the island had become over grown with phragmites and other non-indigenous plant life that were contained in the spoils, he added.
Those plants will be removed and the upland area replanted with indigenous species such as red and black cedar, bayberry and others.
The new area will be accessible from Route 72 by an approximately one mile ADA compliant trail that will lead in from the roadway and then loop through the area, said Ebony Washington, an environmental planner with Parson Brinkerhoft, the engineering and design firm for the project.
areas that will each accommodate 14 vehicles are part of the project as well as
two observation areas with pavilions and picnic tables, said Washington.
Five large informational signs will be placed along the path showing a map of the area, the history of the project, the plants and wildlife to be found in both the uplands and wetlands and other information, added Washington
Steve Balzano, environmental manager for Parson Brinkerhoft, said that public access was a “big part of the evolution of the project” and helped secure federal funding.
Project Manager Michael Folli said the uplands will be built up to approximately 20 feet with the pavilions constructed at the at the highest points to provide the best views of the island and surrounding area.
Construction is schedule to start in August of 2015 and be completed by the spring of 2017.
Public comment on the plan is open until July 9 and the entire Environmental Assessment for the project is viewable on line at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe.
Written comments should be submitted to Vinny Turner, USFWS, P.O. Box 72, 800 Great Creek Rd., Oceanvill, NJ 08231 or by email to Vinny_Turner@fws.gov.