Crescent Park Forest Stewardship Plan

The Borough is working with New Jersey Audubon Society and the Borough’s Shade Tree Commission to implement a Forest Stewardship Plan for the restoration of Crescent Park, one of only four remaining Maritime forest habitats left in the State.  Some highlights from the plan are printed below or you may view the entire plan at the link at the end of this message. Please submit your comments to Borough Administrator Lorraine Carafa through October 30, 2017.

1. Crescent Park Forest Stewardship Plan

As previously discussed, the Crescent park area of Sea Girt is a one of the few patches of maritime forest that remain in New Jersey.  It was once part of an unbroken chain of maritime forests along New Jersey’s coastline. The few other remaining maritime forests are in Sandy Hook, Island Beach State Park, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, and Western Cape May. These forests are a globally imperiled community due to their rarity. The forests are important as roosting and nesting locations for a variety of birds, particularly migratory birds using the coastal flyway.

The forests also act to buffer high winds, and in developed residential areas are important for groundwater recharge.

The Crescent Park area of Sea Girt, like most of the maritime forests in NJ, is a product of regrowth rather than being a remnant of the original colonial forest.  This does not reduce its value and is rather a tribute to the tenacity of these ecosystems.  However, over the years, the introduction of invasive alien plant species and lack of proper management have created a situation that threatens the sustainability of this community resource.

Assessment of the key stand dynamics associated with the forest:

  •  The relative decline in those tree species that are common to earlier successional stages of maritime forest types, many of which are important forage producers for migratory birds
  • The continual progression towards a climax overstory of American holly as the dominating overstory species, and the reduced complexity that comes with a “single species” forest.  Single species stands are also less resilient to environmental stressors
  • Dwindling diversity at the shrub and ground cover layers, which provides the basis for many important ecosystem services including water conservation, carbon storage and wildlife habitat
  • Relatively high tree stocking, which compromises individual tree vigor due to the stress of competition for resources such as water, sunlight and nutrients
  • The high proportion of non-native invasive species in the park, which further compromises all of the above issues

Its core recommendations:

The first course of action recommended to begin mitigating these issues is to reduce, or eliminate, the non-native plants to allow for the eventual establishment of preferential native vegetation. Of particular focus should be the English ivy. Despite that some people may find the ivy to be aesthetically pleasing, it is currently the largest disruption to native plant regeneration at the park. It has become so dense that it even seems to be preventing the otherwise shade tolerant American holly from regenerating in the understory. If left unchecked, it may become the only plant persisting in the understory, and as the hollies eventually die (as all trees do), the site would be converted from a forest, to a barren of English ivy.

English ivy can be controlled via mechanical and chemical methods, or potentially a combination of both. Each control method has pros and cons, and the preferred method rests with the landowner’s resources and commitment to completing the task a certain way. Generally speaking for invasive plants, long term successful control warrants at least some chemical applications to be effective (and cost effective). Author Jonathan Soll of The Nature Conservancy, prepared a comprehensive summary for controlling English Ivy in the Pacific Northwest, and those experiences should apply equally to Crescent Park. The 12 page document is attached to this plan for reference, and while it reviews the methods they found successful, there are undoubtedly other treatments – including different herbicides – that could provide comparable results. It is beyond the scope of this plan to fully comprehend the resources of the Borough to control the ivy, but consultation with a licensed pesticide applicator who has experience with English ivy would be warranted prior to undertaking the work. It could be feasible to assemble a workforce to first conduct a hand pulling operation to reduce the amount on the forest floor and to sever vines climbing into the trees. Then, conduct herbicide applications to treat the residual materials and new sprouts that occur. This would require less chemicals, but will be much more labor intensive. Undoubtedly, complete control will be a multi-year task, requiring follow-up treatments.

The populations of mugwort, Japanese knotweed, privet and clematis cannot easily be controlled via mechanical treatments, and should therefore be treated using herbicides. Each plant has a preferred chemical control and treatment process, depending on its location and growing conditions. At Crescent Park, these plants tend to occur in smaller pockets, and can be effectively treated during the growing season while providing very little disruption to visitors and wildlife usage. A licensed pesticide applicator can determine the best treatment methods for each population.

Once sufficient control has been exerted in a given area, the management focus can shift to altering the light regime to allow for more diverse plant growth to occur. This can be accomplished via a Forest Stand Improvement (FSI) treatment with the assistance of a professional forester. Sections of the forest can be selected where a variety of overstory species remain, and where the target trees exhibit sufficient vigor to expect adequate seed development.

Once the ideal candidate trees are selected, the adjacent stems can be culled in order to open the canopy to allow better light penetration to the forest floor. In general, the gaps created would be on the order of 50′- 100′ wide, and ideally they would be scattered widely throughout the park to stagger the regeneration. If there are no hiking trails within 75′ of the gaps, the trees (which are a maximum of 65′ tall) should be girdled and retained as snags for wildlife. Where trails are in close proximity, trees can be felled and left on the ground to serve as coarse woody debris for wildlife use, and to recycle nutrients.

To balance the varied interests for this forest and the unique aesthetic values that it provides to visitors, it is suggested that at least one third of the stand where holly dominates is retained as a climax holly forest, and perhaps the other two thirds are managed for a continuum of various ages and species. However, even where holly is the dominant species, tree stocking is well above the optimum for tree growth, and those sections would be well served by a thinning operation to reduce inter-tree stress and improve residual tree vigor. It is suggested that 30 – 40 sq. feet of basal area per acre can be culled in these sections, which will concentrate growth on the residual stems. This effort should target intermediate and co-dominant stems for removal that already exhibit symptoms of decline. Common signs of decline might include structural defects, decay or compacted bark plates. A secondary benefit of thinning is that the small canopy openings will allow some filtered light to reach lower canopy strata, fostering better understory plant development.

It is suggested that FSI progress slowly through the stand, rather than in a few intense treatments. Completing patches that are smaller than an acre per year (perhaps spread across several spots), will help to minimize the visual impacts and preserve visitor use for most of the park at any given time.

Crescent Park Forest Stewardship Plan

Crescent Park FSP Attachments