By John Burton |
RUMSON – A partnership between the borough and Monmouth University will provide students an opportunity to study the rich ecosystems of the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers and surrounding waterways.
Officials from the borough and the university on Tuesday, Sept. 26, conducted a press conference to make public their plans to cooperate in establishing a marine field station on municipal-owned property.
“Rumson has embraced the agreement,” Mayor John Ekdahl told the audience of university representatives, elected officials and other individuals interested in the long-term plans for the project.
In the rear of Borough Hall property, off Avenue of Two Rivers, the borough has a sewer pump station in the vicinity of a boat ramp allowing access to the Navesink River and, by extension, other area tributaries in the surrounding Two River area.
This agreement will have Monmouth University, West Long Branch, through the school’s Urban Coastal Institute, construct a marine field house above the pump house. The station, officials said, is expected to have laboratory space, classrooms and meeting rooms. The location will be used by university students to explore the ecological diversity the area provides. Area high school and younger students attending borough public schools will have access to the facility as well, offering hands-on educational experiences in the future, officials said.
“We’re excited for what the future holds for us,” Ekdahl concluded about the project.
Monmouth Conservation Foundation worked with the par ties to facilitate the project, according to the foundation’s executive director, William Kastning. The foundation, which works to preserve open space around the county, had hoped to acquire two islands located in the river for the marine station. However, the islands, Picnic Island and Dorn Island, as they’re commonly known, totaling about 15 acres and owned by the Dorn family, weren’t suited for the use due to environmental considerations, Kastning explained.
“This is truly a win-win-win, opportunity,” said Steven Bachrach, dean of the university’s School of Science. Students and academics can conduct scientific study of the shore area that will “provide guidance and help to protect our shoreline,” Bachrach added.
“This is truly an exciting time for the School of Science,” he said.
The proposed marine station will likely be about 4,000-5,000 square feet and could cost roughly $1.5 million. Those projections are very tentative at this point, Bachrach advised, with the university preparing to under take fundraising efforts to make it happen.
Monmouth University has been able to access the municipal boat launch area on the borough property for about 10 years for boats used in university research projects.
The university’s Urban Coast Institute has two boats available and will shortly take ownership of a third, acquiring it from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will be kept on the property of the future marine station, Bachrach said.
Kastning followed up by noting the Monmouth Conservation Foundation has not given up on Picnic and Dorn islands, hoping to eventually obtain them for future preservation.
This article was first published in Sept. 28 – Oct. 5, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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