Goodbye Ponderlodge, Hello Wildlife Habitat!
Buildings at this former golf course in Cape May will be demolished this winter. We are working to help restore the degraded habitat there and have big plans for the site.
By Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager
If you live in southern New Jersey, then I'm sure you've heard of the "Ponderlodge." At one time it was a private golf course. It was purchased in early 2006 by New Jersey's Green Acres Program and became a wildlife management area (WMA). It is a WMA of many names. Lower Township offically named the site "Villas WMA." The Division of Fish and Wildlife has recently named it Cox Hall Creek WMA. I believe it will always be referred to as "Ponderlodge."
Photos of the former golf course in Cape May. We have been actively working to restore wildlife habitat on site since 2008.
Since I began my full time position with CWF in January 2008, I've followed the Ponderlodge story. To support the acquisition biologists with NJ Fish and Wildlife developed a "draft" habitat restoration plan. According to the plan, the buildings were to be demolished and the fairways restored to benefit wildlife, especially migratory birds. However, due to funding gaps only the buildings were going to be demolished. While the work was moving forward, a group was formed to save the buildings. This effort delayed the demolition for almost two years, during which time the mansion was burnt to the ground and vandalism to the buildings became widespread. In July 2009, Stockton College entered into an agreement with NJ DEP to lease 12 acres and use the buildings as an environmental education center. But, this past October, the National Park Service found that the lease agreement violated the conservation restrictions on the site and Stockton College was unable to develop the center.
Since acquisition the site has naturally been reverting back to forested habitat (check out this blog post with a photo of one of the old fairways). This is known as secondary succession. Forests and trees are good for migratory and resident wildlife, the environment, and people! Trees provide food and cover to migratory birds. Many early successional woody species like Winged sumac, Black cherry and Sassafras are already established on many of old fairways. Other trees like White oak, Willow oak, and Pitch pine are sprouting from seed, especially in areas where the overstory of trees acts like a nursery for them to grow quickly.
Forests provide critical habitat for migratory birds for use as stopover habitat and for nesting. Restoration of these forests will also increase the minimum patch size requirements to provide suitable habitat for several species of endangered and threatened birds, including the red-shouldered hawk, cooper's hawk, and barred owl. Endangered amphibian species, like the eastern tiger salamander and Cope's gray treefrog, that utilize vernal ponds with adjacent forests will also benefit from this project. Trees also sequester or capture CO2. Over time, large amounts of carbon are stored as biomass in the parts of a tree (leaves, branches, roots, and trunk). A one acre reforestation site can sequester an estimated 3 metric tons of CO2 in one year. In 20 years that’s 65 metric tons of CO2 removed from the atmosphere.
CWF has been actively restoring forested habitat on this site. In April 2009, we planted over 900 tree seedlings on a 1.5 acre fairway using local volunteers. In the spring of 2010 we planted an additional 600 seedlings on another fairway. With a grant from Conservation Resources Inc. we will reforest another 2 acres this spring. This grant will be used to help measure the amount of carbon that is being captured from our reforestation efforts. Once the reforestation is complete, over 170 acres forested habitat will exist on site.
Goodbye Ponderlodge! The buildings are expected to be demolished in February. Along with the buildings about 3.8 miles of old golf cart paths will be removed to help reduce disturbance to wildlife. After demolition is complete this fall, we will install a “backyard habitat demonstration site” near the main parking area in partnership with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The site will have interpretive signs that explain habitat treatments (a brush pile, trees that provide food and cover, scrub-shrub, wildflower meadows, nectar producing plants, and a pond) that homeowners can use in their own backyards to benefit wildlife. We are currently in the design phase of the project. We expect work to begin in late September.
If you have a group and would like to volunteer to help plant trees in April, please send me an email.
Find Related Info: Habitat Restoration
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