With numerous species of birds — including the elusive snowy owl — currently enjoying Island Beach State Park, a state official is concerned about the recent influx of park visitors walking on sensitive protective dunes to catch a glimpse or snap a photo.
“The extensive dune system through the length of Island Beach State Park is a valued treasure that serves to provide its own resource to the flora and fauna of the barrier island,” said park manager Ray Bukowski. “It also serves to protect the ecosystems of the island, Barnegat Bay, and the mainland of Ocean County.”
Bukowski says that visitors are enjoying the influx of birds, and some are damaging sensitive areas.
“Many folks are tempted to leave the marked trails and trek through and over the dune system in an effort to find particular birds. Any foot traffic will impact a dune — any traffic,” he said. “Each foot print will destabilize the sand and cause erosion, one step will destroy a dune grass plant or break a vital rhizome which knit the dune and stabilize the structure.”
Walking on a dune is a violation of park rules and can subject a violator to a penalty or eviction from the park, the park manager said.
“Users must be reminded that dune management is a painstaking process supported by thousands of volunteer hours and donations of vegetation and fencing provided by many supporting organizations, particularly the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association and the Friends of Island Beach State Park,” Bukowski stressed.