Bringing together a dedicated team of volunteers is no easy feat. To launch a new nonprofit organization with volunteers committed to improving parks and open spaces is equally, if not more, challenging. Yet, Sea Girt resident and councilwoman, Diane Anthony, navigated these challenges with grace and persistence, amidst a global pandemic, and in 2020 formed the Sea Girt Conservancy (SGC).
“After living here for many years, I didn’t know about Edgemere Park until joining the borough council. That was the moment the light bulb went off for me that more needs to be done to raise awareness and improve our Sea Girt parks ”, explained Diane. “I’m self-taught on the subject of conservation, but it’s something I’m passionate about because I know how important it is to maintain our natural spaces for the community.”
It became evident quickly that more funds were needed to accomplish park improvement plans and as a fiscal conservative, she did not want to introduce an additional tax burden on residents. A fellow resident and supporter of her park improvement plans, now SGC chair, Alan Zakin, Esq. suggested forming a nonprofit that could raise funds for the park and leverage resources without increasing taxes. From there the idea for the Sea Girt Conservancy was born.
Like many a great leader, Diane knows how to bring people together and began by reaching out to various friends and members of the community to join forces to tackle the challenge. Diane shares that “it’s the gentle, but persistent approach” that she has tried to convey given that not everyone agreed with this project being a priority for the borough.
Talking to some people about the importance of removing invasive species to make way for native gardens and you will observe their eyes glaze over. Yet, Diane was able to capture the attention of local residents, who were unaware of conservation challenges in their parks. She remains active in educating the public about these issues at borough council meetings and through other community activities held by SGC.
A quick look at the Sea Girt Conservancy website and you will observe that she has pulled together a team of board members with the right mix of talents to successfully launch the organization.
“We have legal, accounting, engineering, horticulture, marketing, and fundraising specialists who are all dedicated to the cause and working together to improve and maintain our parks for current and future generations,” explains Diane, “not to mention, our incredibly supportive Buildings and Grounds Department here in Sea Girt.”
Even with all the talent they have, there are significant challenges ahead to achieve SGC’s goals. “When parks are overrun with invasive species, they can’t last as individual healthy ecosystems. We need these important places to endure for generations to come and they will need to be maintained.”
“When parks are overrun with invasive species, they can’t last as individual healthy ecosystems.
We need these important places to endure for generations to come and they will need to be maintained.”
For a quiet seaside community that is only 1.05 square miles, Sea Girt boasts a small but impressive list of municipal parks which include significant natural resources. For now, the SGC is focusing on Edgemere and Crescent Parks. Edgemere Park, situated along the Wreck Pond, boasts a history dating back to the Victorian Age and is remembered fondly by many long-time locals as a Boy Scout camping spot that was enjoyed by many generations. Crescent Park, located a stone’s throw from the beachfront, is a unique wooded park that offers passive and active recreation uses and represents one of the last remaining maritime forests in the area.
A visit to Edgemere Park will demonstrate the progress made by SGC, including the park entryway revitalized with fresh mulch and an array of newly planted native flowers and shrubs. The group is working to remove a significant area of invasive species from the park to make way for native plants that will attract pollinators and other wildlife. Additionally, they have plans to establish an outdoor classroom for the nearby school and other groups to enjoy. The initial phases of the project are underway due to funding received from the Monmouth County Open Space Grant Program and numerous private donations.
SGC has just celebrated its first birthday in June and a fundraiser is planned for Saturday, July 24th at a private residence in Sea Girt.
To learn more and donate, visit the Sea Girt Conservancy website: https://seagirtconservancy.org/