by Paul R. Shelly
Too often in the past, regional planning affecting our coastal areas was undertaken without the benefit of wide public participation. This can, and should, change. Citizen input is particularly important with so much at stake as state and regional authorities consider significant new construction and restoration projects and modifications to our waterways and beaches, some of which are the result of lessons learned from devastating storms including Hurricane Sandy.
This year, up until Dec. 31, anyone who has engaged in certain recreational activities in New Jersey’s coastal areas has a unique opportunity to share the story of their favorite shore areas and the activities they pursue there, while at the same time helping to give perspective to regional planning efforts.
These activities include relaxing on the beach, ocean swimming, wildlife observation, surfing, diving, kayaking and more. Because datasets are or will soon be available for recreational fishing and boating activities, these are not included in the survey.
These shore stories, in the form of basic information about localities and activities, will be gathered in a special online survey conducted by the Surfrider Foundation. The survey will be emailed to all who request it upon visiting the website www.surfrider.org/mid-atlantic-recreation. Surfrider promises that the email addresses provided will be used for no other purpose.
I took the survey a few months ago. In my experience, it was fun. The survey mapping tool allows you to zero in on familiar streets and landmarks via aerial view and say which activities you do there. The whole process took me about 15 minutes. The time would probably be shorter for those who are quick navigators or who visit only one or two coastal spots.
Visiting my favorite places in cyberspace reminded me how important these areas are to my life and well-being.
Next year, the information collected through the survey will be used by a five-state regional planning group known as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO). MARCO will add the Surfrider data to their online spatial data depository: the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal. More importantly, it will be used for regional, ocean planning. The idea here is: planning efforts that involve large regions, big investments, and significant time frames need to consider the many coastal spots that residents deem special and important for recreation.
According to a recent statement by MARCO official Laura McKay “knowing what’s important to the recreation sector helps us make better ocean planning decisions and ensure that we maximize both sustainable economic activity and ocean health.”
The survey effort is being funded and undertaken by Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit organization with 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide and two chapters in New Jersey, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Monmouth University and Ecotrust.
So if you care about New Jersey’s section of the Atlantic coast, why not give your favorite spots for sports, play and relaxation a holiday gift before the close of 2013? Spend the time; take the survey.
Paul R. Shelly of Ewing, NJ is Secretary of the Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
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