Parklands vs. Mother Nature

We spend a lot of time at Recreation Management thinking about the myriad benefits that recreation, sports and fitness facilities deliver to their communities. Quite frankly, I often am astounded to think about how much I took these things for granted before I started covering them for the magazine.

Today, let’s talk about another benefit parks and parklands deliver. I can’t say it any better than U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell:

“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature. By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resiliency of coastal areas, we not only create opportunities for people to connect with nature and support jobs through increased outdoor recreation, but we can also provide an effective buffer that protects local communities from powerful storm surges and devastating floods when a storm like Sandy hits.”

We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of that impressive storm, and while recognizing that existing public lands were a huge boon to the areas hardest hit, public officials have acknowledged that there’s yet more work to be done. That’s why they’ve announced an investment of $162 million into 45 restoration and research projects that aim to better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future storms. The projects will continue the good work of restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, as well as researching the effects and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.

Take the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge as just one example of how public lands can help. Its more than 47,000 acres of wetlands span from Brick Township to the suburbs of Atlantic City, and the refuge absorbed much of Hurricane Sandy’s energy and storm surge, ultimately protecting some of the local communities in the path of the storm. Sandy destroyed refuge roadways and dumped boats, fuel oil tanks, chemical drums and other debris across 22 miles of refuge lands. But the natural buffer provided by the refuge’s marshes, beaches and forests protected its visitor center and headquarters, as well as surrounding communities, from severe flood damage.

And when they’re not acting as a storm buffer, Forsythe’s lands provide outdoor recreation for more than 250,000 visitors each year, who support $8 million in economic activity. The refuge also provides a crucial, if temporary, home for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the projects the Interior Service has planned:

  • $19.8 million to restore a highly damaged tidal salt marsh/barrier beach ecosystem within the former impounded wetland system on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.
  • $24.9 million to restore Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve south of Alexandria, Va., which is currently retreating six to eight feet per year.
  • $11 million to restore natural functions in damaged and degraded salt marshes at Seatuck, Werthein and Lido Beach National Wildlife Refuges on Long Island, N.Y.

An additional $45 million is being invested in assessments, modeling, coastal barrier mapping and other projects to provide federal, state and local land managers and decision-makers the information and tools to improve resiliency and prepare for future storms.

Learn more about the projects by visiting http://www.doi.gov/hurricanesandy/index.cfm

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