Posted on February 8, 2024
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection plans to close part of Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area in Cape May County for nearly two years to complete a $37.5 million ecological restoration project that includes more than a mile of a new raised earthen barrier.
Higbee Beach, along the Delaware Bayshore in Lower Township, has a 1.5-mile pristine shoreline. It is popular with birders but also draws sunbathers, hunters, hikers, and sightseers. The 1,160-acre area contains various habitats such as dune, forest, scrub-shrub, and fields. It has viewing platforms and two miles of nature trails with views of Delaware Bay.
DEP officials say the work will enhance wildlife habitat and reestablish tidal flow to marshes on the property. The agency anticipates that 428 acres of the wildlife management area will be closed through Dec. 2026. They are inviting the public to a meeting Feb. 8 about the project.
Work is scheduled to start this month by A.P. Construction of Philadelphia, which has handled major work on I-95 and other areas of the city. Portions of the Higbee Beach area were already being closed as of Monday.
Map shows the area that will be closed during restoration of the Higbee Beach Wildlife Area in Cape May County announced by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Feb. 1,2024. Closure will be in effect until Dec. 2026.
The parking lot behind Sunset Beach Gifts located on Sunset Boulevard will remain open. However, the parking lot across from the World War II Lookout Tower will be closed.
Officials say a majority of the beach area will remain open during the project. However, a portion of the beach will be closed so a connection can be re-established to the wetlands being restored.
The project calls for a 6,861-foot long earthen berm, or raised barrier, to protect against storm surge and future sea level rise. The berm would rise 7.5 feet and run around much of the perimeter of the wildlife management area’s marsh.
Higbee Beach Restoration
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is closing part of Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area in Lower Township, Cape May County, through Dec. 2026 as part of a $37.5 million environmental restoration project.
DEP officials say the work will restore tidal function to Pond Creek in the wildlife management area, as well as upland areas degraded by the long-gone Harbison Walker magnesite plant that operated from 1941 until it was closed in 1983. According to research by a Montclair University staff member, the plant took seawater from the bay and mixed it with limestone as part of a brick production process. The plant was dismantled and the site cleaned.
“The Delaware Bayshore is a globally unique place, vital to migrations of shorebirds and raptors and home to an abundance of wildlife,” DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said in the announcement. “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.”
David Golden, assistant commissioner for Fish & Wildlife, said crews will install a new trail network and multiple wildlife viewing platforms as, “one of New Jersey’s best wildlife viewing destinations.”
Officials say that once restored, Higbee Beach will provide habitat for raptors such as osprey, peregrine falcons, merlins, kestrels, cooper hawks, and sharp-shinned hawks as they migrate.
The DEP will make a presentation on the project and take questions at the public meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Lower Township’s Municipal Hall, 2600 Bayshore Road, Villas. People can also register online to attend a virtual meeting. Comments and questions can be emailed to NJDEP-HBRfirstname.lastname@example.org.
File: A trail at Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area in Cape May County. Parts of the area will be closed through 2026 as part of a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection $37.5 million restoration project.