Shorebeat recently covered the planting of blocks’ worth of native plants along the oceanfront, separating the parking spaces along Ocean Avenue and the boardwalk.
Funded through a grant from New Jersey American Water Company, volunteers from the community led by resident Sharon Quilter Colucci spent d
ays spreading mulch and carefully planting each of the flowers, bushes and grasses that – even on a cloudy day – make a trip to the beach more colorful. Rumor has it that a few local rabbits have helped themselves to an occasional snack, but for now, we’ll let it slide. The benefits, Colucci told is this week, are immense for the oceanfront.
“The timing was perfect for this garden to be born,” she wrote to us in an e-mail. “When walking to the beach, [I] spotted the sand and weeds which existed between the parking lot and the boardwalk. It turns out this particular patch of weeds bothered quite a few residents and beach goers. It was unanimously embraced as a project by the Environmental Commission.”
The plants were carefully selected., she said, and there will be flowers blooming from April until October.
“As you can see, a few of them have begun to prepare for winter,” she said. “They will bloom happily this spring.”
Pollinator gardens are perfect additions to the shoreline. They attract bees to pollinate naturally (rather than hanging around trash cans), and then go on to provide a vital source of nectar for butterflies in the fall. The Jersey Shore, as many locals who stick around for the fall season know, is a major fly-by point for the hardy butterflies, who make a journey from Canada all the way to South America. Much of that journey follows the coast, and pollinator gardens help the species survive their big trip.
Meanwhile, about 35 percent of all food crops require pollinators to exist, and some pollinating species are being added to the endangered list.
The dedication by the community to the project has been one of its most heartwarming highlights, showing a pride in Ortley Beach by its residents that can be rare in the modern age.
“Taking good care of the garden is not an easy task by any means,” Colucci said. “The heat dome and lack of rain saw to that. This garden takes two hours to water each and every day. Volunteers and the occasional beach visitor make sure watering occurs.”
Township officials and their county public works counterparts have done their part as well, providing a water source, soil mulch and soon, leaf mulch this fall after collections are completed.
“We have created a vibrant ‘Ortley Beach Rest Stop’ for Monarch Butterflies migrating to Mexico,” Colucci said. “This garden is only half of the story, though. This spring, in addition to adding new plantings, we will begin our outreach program.”
The outreach program, she said, will include programs aimed at different age groups, video presentations, giving out pollinator seeds and a partnership with the website MonarchWatch.org, where youth will be trained to identify and tag the butterflies during their travels.
“This garden is the first step toward making this a unique and enviable community effort,” she said.