By Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen |
While some people were sleeping late or nursing hangovers the morning after New Year’s Eve, others were welcoming 2016 by taking a brisk walk in nature.
Out on the northern tip of Sandy Hook, about 200 people gathered for the American Littoral Society’s annual beach walk, led by Executive Director Tim Dillingham.
Further inland, 17 people met on in the Ramanessin section of Holmdel Park for a journey along a 2.1 mile trail. The annual New Year’s Day Greenway Walk, sponsored by the Friends of Holmdel Open Space, was led by Holmdel’s former mayor and former Environmental Commission chairman, Larry Fink.
Both men said while having fun was important, getting people outside to enjoy and appreciate the environment is important to their respective groups’ missions.
The American Littoral Society, a national nonprofit organization based in Sandy Hook, promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitats along the coast. Dillingham has led the annual walk for 13 years.
“We’ve found the best way to help people learn about and understand the coastline is to get them out here so they develop a passion for it,” Dillingham said. “We love to be on the beach.”
But life on the coast is getting more complicated.
“We are trying to help fashion a better relationship with how we live along the ocean. People have been living in New York and New Jersey for 400 years and they’re not likely to leave anytime soon,” Dillingham explained. “Now the change in climate, ecologically, is causing the ocean to change so it’s becoming hazardous. We need to help people to know how to live here.”
Part of the ecological coastline balancing act is preserving wetlands and salt marshes, rebuilding sand dunes and oyster reefs, and not building walls that cause waves to carve away the ocean’s bottom, Dillingham said. Those measures also are very important to the survival of marine life that live in those areas, he added.
But on a chilly and windy January 1st morning, foremost on the minds of beach walkers was simply keeping warm and hoping the sun would break through gray clouds — which it did around noon.
Cleo Boiko of Allenhurst said she enjoyed her first New Year’s Day beach walk with the American Littoral Society.
“It was very very invigorating,” said Boiko, a member of the Monmouth County Senior Hikers group. “One of the other ladies and myself picked up a bag full of garbage so I felt I did something good for the environment and something good for myself.”
Siobhan Quinn, Richard Irish and their baby Aoife were enjoying refreshments at the Littoral Society’s headquarters at 18 Hartshorne Drive following the walk. Quinn said this was her fifth time walking, although she only walked part of the way since Aoife, who turns 1 in February, was getting cold. Raised in Leonardo, she said her parents taught her and her four siblings how to swim in the Atlantic Ocean and Raritan Bay.
“We’d have picnics here at Sandy Hook, walk the beach, watch the sun set and the moon rise,” she said. “It’s a place that should be cherished, preserved, respected, appreciated and acknowledged. And this is a perfect day to do that. We so often don’t take the time to be in awe of how beautiful our surroundings are.”
The Ramanessin section of Holmdel Park is another beautiful area people may miss as they drive by in their cars, said Larry Fink. The New Year’s Day walk began 21 years ago, he said, after a 416-acre area was purchased with $19 million in public and private money to preserve it from being used for a housing development.
“The area was divided in two parts with over 200 acres becoming the Ramanessin section of Holmdel Park and managed by the county,” Fink explained. “It’s a conservation and wilderness area that’s been kept as natural as possible with a gravel parking lot and gravel and dirt trails.”
Maps of the trails are available online at monmouthcountyparks.com and in the parking lot on Roberts Road. Fink strongly suggests first timers use one.
People interested in learning more about land use in Holmdel may contact Citizens for Informed Land Use at www.holmdel-CILU.org.
To learn more about the American Littoral Society, upcoming events, or to receive its newsletter should call 732-291-0055 or visit www.littoralsociety.org.
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