Portions of the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area (WMA) closed its doors on January 29, 2024, initiating the Pond Creek Restoration Project. The closure is anticipated to persist until the project’s completion in December 2026, with the primary goal of enhancing wildlife habitats and restoring tidal flow to the marshes.
For public safety and to safeguard the land and water areas of Higbee Beach WMA, the closure encompasses a 428-acre section of the wildlife management area.
Higbee Beach Wildlife Area to Close
This closure, however, will not impact the parking lot behind Sunset Beach Gifts on Sunset Boulevard. In contrast, the parking lot across from the World War II Lookout Tower will be closed throughout the project’s duration.
The Pond Creek Restoration Project is a collaborative effort funded by Natural Resource Damage funds and co-led by the DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration and Office of Coastal Engineering in partnership with Fish & Wildlife.
A.P. Construction of Philadelphia is set to implement the project, commencing construction after initial site preparation work, including fencing, signage, erosion prevention measures, and site dewatering.
Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette expressed enthusiasm about the project, stating, “The Pond Creek Restoration Project will restore a major section of the wildlife management area that was degraded many years ago by a magnesium-extraction plant. We are excited to share our progress as we begin the important work of restoring this land for wildlife and public enjoyment.”
To keep the public informed and engaged, an informational meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 8, at Lower Township’s Municipal Hall, 2600 Bayshore Road, Villas, NJ (Cape May County).
The meeting aims to provide details about the closure, construction schedule, and the ecological benefits the Pond Creek Restoration Project will bring to this ecologically important area.
Assistant Commissioner for Fish & Wildlife David Golden expressed excitement about the collaborative effort, saying, “We are excited to work together with other programs within DEP to restore this portion of Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area to maximize wildlife benefits and public access.”
The Pond Creek Marsh Restoration site includes the former Harbison-Walker magnesite facility and associated landfill, Davey’s Lake, and most of the Pond Creek marsh. The main project goal is to re-establish tidal inundation without increasing flood risk while creating habitat management areas for diverse species.
Achieving these goals involves modifying the inlet channel, developing a network of channels for tidal flow, excavating flood pools for fish habitat, creating upland islands for shorebirds, and constructing an earthen berm for wildlife observation blinds.
The restoration project will provide foraging and loafing habitat for raptors, increase food and shelter for various wildlife, and contribute to New Jersey’s wildlife viewing destinations.
For those unable to attend the public meeting, participation is possible virtually by registering on the DEP website. Throughout the project’s duration, comments and questions are welcome via email at NJDEP-HBRfirstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Pond Creek Restoration Project unfolds, Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area looks forward to not only preserving its natural beauty but also creating an enhanced environment for both wildlife and public enjoyment.