Springing into Action


by Kevin Hamilton
With New Hampshire (where SCA is headquartered) under a near record 100+ inches of snow, I was looking forward to my Alternative Spring Break assignments. First stop: Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey, one of four National Park Service locations where SCA is offering graduate students the opportunity to work with park scientists, managers and policy makers.

At Gateway, the focus this week is on climate change. Students at Acadia are studying civic engagement, wildland/urban interface issues at Indiana Dunes, and conservation policy at Delaware Water Gap.

While I was able to spend just a half-day at Gateway, it was an amazing if startling afternoon. Rutgers professor Norbert Psuty is a brilliant and genial guy but “rosy” is not a color on his palette. As sea levels rise, he noted, fewer and fewer rivers are building estuaries by depositing silt. Jersey beaches are being washed away – so much so that the state is installing vast pipelines to capture the migrating sand and return it to its previous location. Think about that. This is considered a solution?

With so many people worried about waterfront homes falling into the ocean, Psuty opined that the bigger problem may be far more subtle. What happens, he asked, when water levels are so high that ships can’t sail beneath bridges? When high tides send sewers flowing the wrong way? When sunken utility lines are really sunk? He predicts infrastructure, not expensive houses, will be the issue that prompts broad reform.

The ASB students later toured the Howard Marine Lab and Sandy Hook’s dune ecosystems, but I had to head south to Padre Island National Seashore, where SCA ASBers were building an ADA-approved boardwalk to improve beach access. I wonder if it’ll be on pontoons?