October 11, 2013
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Get Outdoors – There’s an App for That!

By Michele S. Byers

Any time is a good time to explore New Jersey’s great outdoors … and fall is especially glorious. If you want to find out where to hike, bike, paddle, fish, bird-watch, hunt or visit historic sites, check your phone!

More than 60 percent of mobile phones are “smartphones,” and there’s been an explosion of new apps, or downloadable programs, for every purpose under the sun.

For outdoor lovers, these apps can help you find parks and trails, identify plants and wildlife, forecast the weather, discover places to fish or hunt, and even help with an emergency!

Here are some cool free apps. Some of these freebies are “light” versions of paid apps, allowing you to check them out before purchasing the upgrade.

Last year, the State of New Jersey rolled out two “Pocket Ranger” apps for smartphones. These apps include information on all that’s available in state-owned parks, forests, historic sites and wildlife management areas. One is a guide to state parks and forests, and the other is a guide to fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.

Both Pocket Ranger apps have a “nearest me” feature that uses GPS technology to find the places closest to you. This is especially handy when you’re in an unfamiliar part of the state and looking for a quick outdoor escape.

Once you’ve found your spot, other free apps can enhance your appreciation of the natural world around you.

For bird watching, try iBird Lite Guide to Birds, Birds Lite by National Geographic or Scotts Bird ID; all can help identify the most common birds.

For trees and plants, there’s Leafsnap, an electronic field guide developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian. This app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photos you take with your phone. A similar visual recognition app, known as Project Noah, IDs your photos of birds, insects and animals.

If you like geocaching – the popular GPS “treasure hunt” pastime – there’s an app for that, too! Geocaching Intro, Commander Compass Lite, and OpenCaching can all guide your search for caches hidden in parks and forests.

Of course, knowing the weather is especially important these days … and smartphones can download satellite images. Try the AccuWeather, MyRadar or Weather Channel apps to check on approaching storms.

And if you or your companion get hurt out on the trail, there’s an app to assist. The First Aid app from the American Red Cross helps you respond to emergencies like bleeding, heart attacks, sprains, broken bones and more. It’s fully integrated with 911, so you can even call for help without leaving the app.

Letter: Middletown's Ideal Beach Supports Beach Sweeps

So charge up your smartphone and get outdoors – with a little help from modern technology!

And for more information on preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at


Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. 


Coastal Structures: Shore Protection vs. Erosion Control?

By The American Shore & Beach Preservation Association

Many people talk about hard coastal structures as if they are all the same and are all equally harmful to beaches.

This unfortunate misunderstanding originates from past indiscriminate use of structures in ways that often were harmful to beaches. Many of these structures were constructed 20-plus years ago when we had little understanding of the interactions between the structures and coastal processes.

Coastal structures actually fall into two distinct categories with very different missions: Shore protection structure and erosion control structures.

Shore protection structures (such as seawalls and rock revetments) armor the coast to prevent the shoreline from retreating due to chronic erosion. While these structures may protect the upland immediately landward to them, they do not necessarily stop beach erosion. This erosion may continue as water gets deeper in front of the armored shoreline due to wave reflection (how waves “bounce” off the structure) and the scouring nature of the waves. A poorly designed revetment or seawall may simply transfer the erosion to an adjacent section of beach, necessitating extending the shoreline armoring further along the coast. A poorly designed structure may therefore prevent an eroding beach to recover, cause adjacent beach to erode, or both. Past experiences such as this is why many people believe structures are bad for beaches.

Erosion control structures, however, are quite different from shore protection structures in both form and function. In order to understand the difference between the two, it is necessary to understand what causes erosion.

Sand is moved along the shoreline primarily by waves. The amount of sand in motion is proportional to the size of the waves and the angle at which waves strike the shoreline. Wave size and angle are largely determined by weather, but are also affected by decreasing water depth as the wave approaches the shore. Since the near-shore water depth may be quite different from one place to another along the coast, the wave size and angle reaching the shoreline in front of a beachfront condominium, for example, may be quite different from the waves that reach the beach in front of another condominium a short distance down the beach.

The Spirit of Shrewsbury

This difference in wave energy can result in a “sand transport gradient.” In simple terms, this can mean that one section of shoreline is losing more sand than it is getting (erosion) while a neighboring shoreline is getting more sand than it is losing (accretion).

So, simply put, an erosion control structure is intended to change the coastal conditions that are causing erosion with the intent of slowing or stopping it, while a shore protection structure is meant to be a hard line in the sand to repel incoming waves and keep the upland shore area intact while the near-shore area continues to erode.

The best example of an erosion control structure is a breakwater, a structure placed offshore to interact with incoming waves in a way that modifies the size and angle of the wave that reaches the beach. If designed properly, the breakwater can change the sediment transport gradient and reduce – or even eliminate – erosion. Breakwaters are often constructed in a number of segments, with gaps between the segments. By adjusting the segment lengths and gap widths, a coastal engineer can “tune” the structure to allow a desired amount of wave energy and sediment to pass through the structure in order to achieve the desired effect on the shoreline.

Erosion control structures have been successfully used to stabilize beaches and restore sea turtle nesting habitat along shorelines that had previously been adversely impacted by shore protection structures. This is important because, although beach nourishment is the best response to erosion, in many places where there is no sand for nourishment, erosion control structures are a better response than shoreline armoring.

Erosion control structures should be viewed as another tool in the coastal management toolbox, that can target specific erosional problems such as “hot spots” to keep an otherwise healthy beach stable, or to help a newly renourished beach last longer by targeting site-specific issues. That is why some areas that banned hard coastal structure altogether are opening up the option of an engineered erosion control structure as part of an overall coastal management plan.


Founded in 1926, the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to 


Two River Moment

comment-little silver aerial 1950 8x10

This aerial shot shows there was no problem parking at the Little Silver railroad station at Branch and Sycamore avenues in 1950.

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