WOODBRIDGE TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- When hardening our shorelines against more volatile storms, one solution does not fit all.
In some cases, returning developed land to nature makes the most sense. Living proof exists in New Jersey.
For the past six years, Dr. Brooke Maslo, associate professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, worked in partnership with Woodbridge Township to transform about 30 acres in the Watson-Crampton neighborhood from suburban back to its natural state.
Before and after photos reveal a sharp contrast. Before, Watson Avenue was lined with home after home. After, no homes, no road and a red caution barrier added for safety.
The neighborhood sits along the Woodbridge River, and Superstorm Sandy destroyed much of it.
"Post-Superstorm Sandy, we've bought out 170 homes. This is 171," said Thomas C. Flynn, flood plain administrator for Woodbridge Township.
The township used New Jersey's Blue Acres buy-out money, Flynn explained. Most homes there were built in the 1920s.
"They were built before town's first flood insurance rate map was even developed," Flynn told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock.
The land will become part of the flood resiliency initiative.
The initiative's three main objectives, Maslo explained, are "getting people out of harm's way. The second thing was improving ecological function relative to things like flood capacity, flood mitigation" and finally, "transforming this previously developed landscape back into a public asset."
Embedded within the native habitat is a 1-mile loop trail for all to enjoy with signs to look out for wildlife.
Mayor John McCormac says this transformation works.
"In Ida and other storms, nothing happened down here. It worked exactly like it's supposed to," he said.
"This project is absolutely a success, and not only is it a success here, but it is a model for what to do elsewhere in New Jersey," Maslo said.
A nature-based solution to shoring up our shoreline.
The Watson-Crampton project is part of a larger one in Woodbridge Township aimed at restoring 186 acres.
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