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Students Dig In To Help Shore Up Coastline Of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's a new day for Jamaica Bay. Hundreds of volunteers will spend a week digging in to help shore up the coastline.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported, their efforts may make the area more storm-resistant and keep local wildlife thriving.

Over one week, 400 volunteers will shovel the shoreline of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to make room for 10,000 native trees and shrubs. They're plant now to create a more resilient coast in the future.

"Our world is changing, sea level is rising. We're having increased flooding in areas that were drier than before." Chief of Resource Stewardship, Gateway National Recreation Area, Patti Rafferty said, "Sandy produced a surge of nearly 8.5-ft in Jamaica Bay - caused big problems for the ecosystem."

Rafferty said the beach was breached. What was a freshwater source for hundreds of species of birds became brackish. Trees were uprooted, plants died, and invasive species took over.

Now, volunteers - led by the National Park Service, Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy, and the Nature Conservancy are taking it back.

They're making room for natives like juniper and pitch pine.

"They can tolerate salt water and tolerate being wet for longer periods of time," Emily Nobel Maxwell, NYC Program Director, The Nature Conservancy, said.

She said securing soil around each plant solidifies the future of this urban gem.

"These trees and shrubs will provide better wildlife habit for birds and will help stabilize our shoreline and more quickly recover during flooding," she explained.

Bronxdale High School students took up trowels and showed off shovels to do their part. Some were admittedly apprehensive at first.

"At first I was like, I don't want to get dirty and stuff," Hawa Tunkara said. "I thought it was going to be boring."

But quickly learned it was anything but.

"Being in New York, the Bronx, a lot of pollution. Being out here doing something nice for the environment, it's a great experience," Tunkara said.

Sowing the seeds for a brighter more resilient New York City.

By the end of 2017, 30,000 new, native trees and shrubs will be planted at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.


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