Fort Hancock, NJ – Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer products companies, has awarded The Sandy Hook Foundation a $100,000 grant in support of improving the scientific literacy of students and other general visitors to the Units of Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA) regarding interpreting data on climate change. This grant was made available through the Unilever United States Foundation, Inc.

Phase I of the project will include utilizing scientific resources available from park cooperator Rutgers University, to create educational media including posters, maps, displays, photographs, and other visitor friendly materials for display in all three Visitor Centers within the park (Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay, and Staten Island). The signage will show the effects of changing water levels on a variety of natural and cultural resources. Importantly, these materials will use local features to demonstrate the conditions and impacts at a personal level. Students and visitors will gain a global and local view of how climate change might impact them and the park, and how important their own stewardship efforts are.

Phase II of the project will give students and other visitors universal access to a field study site within the Jamaica Bay salt marsh habitat in a sustainable and resource-sensitive way. Unilever’s grant will allow the park to create a 300’ accessible path leading to the edge of a high salt marsh adjacent to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Visitor Refuge Center. The new path will branch from an existing walkway that skirts a field of native plants and grasses. Connecting these pathways will give students and other visitors’ easy access to the salt marsh, and allow them to experience several distinct habitats within a short distance, including upland grasses, maritime woods, shrub thickets and salt march. Students will be able to collect data and their field finds back to the Visitor Center for further study. Wayside stations (outdoor signage) along the path and at the viewing area will educate visitors about the diversity and critical importance of refuge habitats. The boardwalk will be constructed of recycled plastic lumber which will match the section presently there.

Dave Avrin, Chief of Resources Management at GNRA, says “the boardwalk and educational displays will be important for visitors to learn more about timely topics such as water level rise. We hope to engage and excite a new generation of park users so that they may become future stewards of national parks. We are grateful to Unilever for providing funds for this exciting project.”

The project commenced April 1, 2011 and will be finalized in April of 2012 when the installation of the walkway and the waysides are complete. The Sandy Hook Foundation would like to thank Unilever for such a generous grant.

The Sandy Hook Foundation is the Official Friends Group of the National Park Service at Sandy Hook, dedicated to nurturing and protecting Sandy Hook’s natural, cultural and historic resources.