- Jim Wright, Conservancy Trustee
In late May, my wife and I went for an early morning run on the boardwalk in Cape May. We had not been there, I am a tad embarrassed to say, in nearly a decade. For most of the run it looked like man was definitely getting the better of the beach -- a sterile landscape of buildings, stores, roads, boardwalk and sand.
However, as we reached the end of the boardwalk, things suddenly changed - ahead was a sandy oasis with fenced-off dune grasses to fight beach erosion, and wide expanses of green beyond a beach that stretched to the lighthouse on the horizon.
I turned to my wife and said: "Wow, somebody around here knows how to get it right!"
Nearby a lone birder was focusing her binoculars on a distant Oystercatcher. I interrupted her reverie and asked her what was going on. She lowered her binoculars a moment and replied: "Oh, The Nature Conservancy did all that."
Although I had not a whit to do with the project - the South Cape May Meadows Preserve - it’s tough to describe how proud I was to be a part of The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey Chapter at that moment.
Over the next day or so, I saw other examples of the Conservancy’s knack for getting it right, from the Eldora Nature Preserve in the Delaware Bayshores, more than 900 acres of secluded woodlands and wetlands, including a recently built boardwalk where I watched egrets and swallows, to Sunray Beach, a mile of beachfront on the Delaware Bay, where I witnessed horseshoe crabs depositing their eggs at high tide on a full moon.
The next morning, my wife and I visited the South Cape May Meadows Preserve for the first time. TNC’s New Jersey State Director Barbara Brummer led a two-hour walk and explained how a vast stand of phragmites had been transformed into a wonderful habitat for all sorts of wildlife. We saw the protected nests of piping plovers, and a squadron of black skimmers on maneuvers. We saw Ospreys on nests and terns galore. We saw restored wetlands and freshwater ponds.
This is what success looks like.
This is a place where people got it right -- and were doing their darndest to keep it that way. My Cape May trip gave me a greater appreciation for The Nature Conservancy’s efforts and made me proud to be a (very small) part of them.
Note: In 1981, The Nature Conservancy acquired 212 acres at Cape May Point as a nature preserve known as “The Meadows” on land that was part of the abandoned town of South Cape May. Beginning in 1992, the Conservancy partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) to undertake a major restoration of the site and adjacent Cape May Point State Park. The project restored 350 acres which has since resulted in increased storm protection for surrounding towns, improvement to endangered species habitat, and enhanced freshwater wetlands important to this globally important migratory bird stopover.
Jim Wright is a member of the NJ Chapter board of trustees, birding columnist and former environmental writer for The Bergen Record; he writes about and photographs New Jersey's natural places. Author of several books on nature, he is known especially for In The Presence of Nature, a book on the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, NJ.