Fall beach grass planting is happening at Island Beach State Park in Berkeley on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. About 200 volunteers are expected to help plant beach grass and more are welcome.

Volunteers must register and then they will be assigned a certain part of the beach on grass planting day, said Stevie Thorsen, volunteer coordinator for Friends of Island Beach State Park.

There will be 10,000 beach grass plants available to be planted on the dunes.

Beach grass planting at Island Beach State Park (Photo Credit: Friends of Island Beach State Park)

Beach grass stabilizes the dune systems, said Thorsen. The dunes are super important because they help stabilize the beach, protect any homes near the beaches, and other types of habitat that are beyond the beaches. Dunes are the primary defense against storms and powerful ocean surges, she added.

At Island Beach State Park, however, there are not a lot of homes near the beach, but there are other habitats like the salt marsh and the maritime forest. The dunes help protect these habitats too.

Beach grass planting at Island Beach State Park (Photo Credit: Island Beach State Park)

Thorsen said beach grass planting is pretty simple and it's a great way for the community to get together and do something beneficial for the environment. The beach grass stalks are dormant in the winter. In fact, they look dead, she said.

But they are planted while they are dormant. Thorsen said dormant beach grass stalks should be planted about 10 inches deep in the sand. They don't have much of a root system so they need to be deep in the ground so they don't dry out or blow away. The stalks will stay dormant all winter, but then by spring, they'll grow roots and sprout the green grass beachgoers are used to seeing on the dunes.

Thorsen said there will be another beach grass planting event in the early spring too. "We need to plant them while the weather is cool because they are dormant and they don't have much of a root system. We need to do it while the sand is still cool. So we'll usually do another one in March," she said.

While they lay dormant in the sand, Thorsen said the stalks take care of themselves and don't need any help from humans. One dormant stalk of beach grass will spread. Thorsen said it can grow up to 25 new shoots in a year. Over time, they grow and can fill out the dune system.

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