By Michele J. Kuhn
SEA BRIGHT – Work is already taking root on building dunes on borough beaches and area garden club members have a part in it.
About 10,000 culms of dune grass have already been inserted into the dunes at the northern end of the beach and thousands more will be planted in the fall, according to Terry Simboli, president of The Garden Club of Fair Haven.
Members of the garden club also recently toured Sea Bright in preparation for the start of a beautification project as another one of their efforts to help with the borough’s recovery following Super Storm Sandy. The club members looked for places where they can put their horticultural touch to brighten public areas in the hard-hit borough.
The two projects are a natural outgrowth of what area clubs do for the community and are important elements of recovery for Sea Bright.
“Sometimes people overlook the little things that help with recovery,” said Frank Lawrence Sea Bright’s volunteer coordinator. “The dune grass planting is essential … The beautification can be seen by some as superficial but it is an important physical and psychological symbol that we are here to rebuild this town.”
The idea for the dune grass project came about shortly after the Oct. 29 storm hit the region. An emergency meeting of The Garden Club of Fair Haven was called just before Thanksgiving by Simboli. Members discussed what they could do to help and where their talents could best be used.
During the session the board voted to allocate $500 it held in a contingency fund for a project to help the devastated borough. Board member Beth Ruda, ”who turned out to be our project manager for this … volunteered to go to Sea Bright and see what we could do,” Simboli said.
Board members then asked other garden clubs in the area if they could contribute. The club from Navesink contributed $500 – “seed money” – while the Rumson club contributed $613 – $113 of which was contributed by members when they passed a can at a meeting.
The Fair Haven Club subsequently applied for and secured a grant from the National Garden Clubs for $5,000.
Ruda spoke to Lawrence and the dune project came together. A committee, the Sea Bright Restoration Committee, was formed with representatives from the borough; garden clubs in Fair Haven, Shrewsbury, Rumson, Navesink, Little Silver and Oceanport; and Clean Ocean Action, the American Littoral Society and the Surfer’s Environmental Alliance (SEA).
The group then went about looking for the culms of dune grass and found they were difficult to purchase because many places up and down the East Coast were doing the same.
A donation of 2,000 culms from a federal environmental group, another 2,000 as a gift from Ruda and the purchase of about 6,000 meant that 10,000 culms could be planted when volunteers gathered March 2 on the beach. About a third- to a half-mile of dunes were planted, Simboli said.
Just a few days after the dunes were planted, a storm hit the area but the grass held in the dunes. “That was great,” Lawrence said.
Culms cannot be planted from April through October because the seedling won’t take during warmer weather. Another planting day is being scheduled in the fall when club members hope a contingent of volunteers in the area will plant more dune grass around the borough’s public beach.
“This is going to be a long-term project,” Simboli said.
Monetary donations are being sought to continue the dune grass project with the Fair Haven club partnering with the American Littoral Society so that donations may be tax deductible. Checks for the project sent to the society must have Sea Bright dune grass planting on the check’s memo line.
The clubs have turned their attention in the meantime to beautifying public areas of the borough.
“Frank Lawrence has asked the garden clubs to help with beautification and we’re just at the start of this,” Simboli said. “We walked around with Frank and Brian Kelly, the councilman who is in charge of the beautification committee.
“We identified areas that the garden clubs could plant before the beaches open, before Memorial Day, to provide some color,” Simboli said. “Again, this will be a long-term project. We’d like to do hanging baskets and replace planters … It takes money to do that and we will be investigating fundraising.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” she said.
The beautification project is important to recovery, Lawrence said, because, when people come back to town for the summer on Memorial Day weekend, they will see a town that “won’t look exactly like last year” but one that is striving to rebuild and recover.
“It’s great to see the support and outpouring from people,” Lawrence said.