Island Beach State Park's natural storm defenses get fortification this Saturday, when more than 300 volunteers spread across the waterfront to plant dune grass.

Dune grass planting (NJDEP)

Members of AmeriCorps New Jersey, Barnegat Bay Partnership, Friends of Island Beach State Park and others will help about 40,000 American Beachgrass plants take root, in what the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) calls a record number of simultaneous plantings in the park.

Recruits and volunteers fan out from Ocean Bathing Area One at 10 AM.

If you'd like to join the group, email Lindsey Sigmund of AmeriCorps New Jersey, 

If weather conditions turn unfavorable, the rain date is April 2.

"The annual dune grass planting program is one of the most popular volunteer efforts at Island Beach State Park, bringing together hundreds of volunteers to help strengthen the dune system while making the beach even more beautiful," said DEP Parks and Forestry Director Mark Texel.

"Dune grasses are vital to protecting the island because they hold the dunes together with their web-like root systems," said Jen Clayton, park manager at Island Beach State Park.

Barnegat Bay Partnership Director Stan Hales noted that the grass serves functions beyond dune reinforcement.
"Dunes provide vital habitat for coastal wildlife species, including both endangered plants and animals," Hales said, "and as we all learned during Superstorm Sandy, plant-stabilized dunes provide a protective storm buffer for coastal communities - an almost priceless ecosystem service."

DEP describes American Beachgrass as bearing long, narrow leaves, growing two to three feet in height at maturity, and growing in bunches. The 10-inch, spiky seed head sprouts in late July or August.

The roots interweave under the sand surface, increasing dune stability, while the grass traps windblown sand and augments the dune size.