Forsythe celebrates reopening of Wildlife Drive after Hurricane Sandy

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Forsythe celebrates reopening of Wildlife Drive after Hurricane Sandy Store Manager Ann Marie Morrison, left, of Absecon has volunteered at Forsythe for five years. Terry Meyer of Galloway is a four-year volunteer. Terry enjoys meeting people from “all over the country and even out of the country.” Morrison loves being store manager but says job one is being a mom to John, 10, and Rachel, 7. (Steve Prisament)

GALLOWAY – From the halls of Congress, to the shores of Galloway, they came to celebrate the opening of Wildlife Drive at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge here Saturday, May 18.

“Today is a good day, and one that was tough to even think about six months ago,” Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig told about 75 staff, volunteers and guests.

An initial check after Hurricane Sandy passed through revealed that all the buildings were in good shape, she said.

“However, it didn’t take long to realize that the wind-driven waves pounded the south dike of the Wildlife Drive,” Rettig said. “Bay water poured into our freshwater impoundment at about seven locations and wave action created one hole that was about 40 feet long and 15 feet deep.”

The West Pool had grown from one to six feet deep.

“The only birds we found out there were double-crested Cormorants that were using the deep holes in the Wildlife drive itself,” Rettig said. “Salinity in the pool matched the bay water. On top of that, massive amounts of debris covered the entire drive. It was overwhelming.”

Quick action by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Roads Coordinator Jeff Mast resulted in a timely partnership with the Federal Highway Administration and allowed for quickly hiring a contractor.

She praised Wagman Construction for its work on the Wildlife Drive.

The $1.4 million restoration project required 2,000 dump truck loads of fill, according to Forsythe Visitor Service Manager Don Freiday.

“It’s taken two and a half months of actual work – longer when you count the reseeding,” Freiday said. “We reopened for weekends only April 2 and full time April 20. In April alone over 2,000 cars utilized the Wildlife Drive.”

Saturday also marked the grand opening for new exhibits in the Visitors Center, he said.

“It was installed in February; it was a fun project,” Freiday said. “The exhibit tells the story of the refuge and its habitats.”

He said it was enjoyable to prepare.

“We devoted most of the space to the salt marsh and beaches since those two habitats make up 80 percent of the refuge,” Freiday said. “Some of the components we can change whenever we want to. Several feature series of photos and they will change annually.”

Dignitaries at the event which concluded with a couple of hours of tours and games for youngsters included U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo and Atlantic County Freeholder Rich Dase.

The Wildlife Drive and all trails in Galloway are open every day, sunrise to sunset.

Admission is $4 per vehicle; $20 per bus. An annual pass is $12 for a vehicle.

Mary Harper of Margate is a five-year volunteer. She’s secretary of Friends of Forsythe and does a lot of work with Biological Services counting birds and plants and you-name-it. (Steve Prisament) Mary Harper of Margate is a five-year volunteer. She’s secretary of Friends of Forsythe and does a lot of work with Biological Services counting birds and plants and you-name-it. (Steve Prisament)

Visitor services specialist Tiffany Kersten, left, and volunteer Shirley Troast who volunteers behind the Visitors Center desk enjoy playing with T.R. Bear. (Steve Prisament) Visitor services specialist Tiffany Kersten, left, and volunteer Shirley Troast who volunteers behind the Visitors Center desk enjoy playing with T.R. Bear. (Steve Prisament)


blog comments powered by Disqus