Why Mordecai Island?

One of the great pleasures of a summer’s evening in Beach Haven is to sit at a street end on the bay off West Avenue and watch the sun go down over the salt marsh. The water is still and reflective of the colors of the approaching sunset. Perhaps a sail is silhouetted against the darkening sky.  Egrets stalk the edge of the marsh along with the occasional Great Blue Heron looking for a last meal of the day. Black Skimmers glide just above the surface of the water, their orange and black lower jaws just breaking the water and leaving arrow-straight mini-wakes as they search for bits of food. The occasional fish breaks the surface scattering concentric ripples briefly over the otherwise glassy surface. A wonderful quiet descends on the scene as wildlife and humans both seem to be immersed in the beauty of the moment and the impending close of another day.

What a shame it would be to lose this wonder that has been our heritage for far longer than any of us were drawn to the place we now call Long Beach Island. The marsh, which parallels the bay shore just west of Beach Haven from Engleside Avenue south to Leeward Avenue, roughly 1/3 of the entire length of the town, has been known as long as the earliest maps and charts have existed as Mordecai Island. And it is slowly but inexorably eroding away.

That we humans, who seem to have a penchant for changing and “improving” everything we see in nature, can stop this process is probably a pipe dream. As Stewart Farrell has said, the fate of these islands is to wash away.  But since we clearly have accelerated the progress of erosion, perhaps we can take some steps to retard — and in the process save for a few more generations — what is indeed inexorable.  It is on this premise that the Mordecai Land Trust was formed.

Susan Lucas, Chief, Coastal Planning Section, Philadelphia District, Army Corps, following a site visit to Mordecai Island in August 2001 was quoted by a reporter from the Press of Atlantic City as saying it would be refreshing for the Corps to be involved in a Mordecai Island project because “I think it will have 100 percent public support.”  The reporter then asked, “Why save Mordecai Island and not one of the bay’s other disappearing sedge islands?” Ms. Lucas replied, “To be honest, there are quite a few islands that could use this help but there’s support for this island.” In fact, the public support for Mordecai Island has been overwhelming.  We owe a debt of gratitude for the support shown by the Borough of Beach Haven, Township of Long Beach, Ocean County, our local State legislators and our local congressman as well as the general public.