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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 2014

Contact:  Bob Considine (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

ISLAND BEACH STATE PARK TO HOST 17TH ANNUAL BEACH PLUM FESTIVAL
END-OF-SUMMER TRADITION SET FOR SUNDAY – PART OF CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION’S EFFORTS TO ENHANCE AND IMPROVE STATE PARK OFFERINGS

(14/P92) TRENTON – The 17th annual Island Beach State Park Beach Plum Festival, a popular and long-running tradition in the state park system, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 7, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

The event, which serves as the largest fundraiser of the year for non-profit park partner Friends of Island Beach State Park, will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, at Ocean Bathing Area 1. There will be no fee at the gate, but a $5 parking donation is suggested to help support the festival.

“We invite our residents and visitors to come out on Sunday and enjoy this beautiful state park, which took a direct hit from Superstorm Sandy but has fully recovered thanks to the hard work  of the Island Beach staff and the support of our many partners,’’ said Richard Boornazian, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources. “Island Beach offered a great summer of swimming and recreation this year, and continues to host many great events, like this weekend’s Plum Festival, for our residents and visitors.’’

As in years’ past, the Beach Plum Festival offers visitors a chance to engage in an array of activities, including beach plum picking, jelly-making demonstrations, children’s games, a kayak raffle, as well as sampling some beach plum ice cream. There also will be music, crafts and exhibits.

In addition, the festival gives visitors a chance to view lifesaving demonstrations by Island Beach State Park lifeguards and to take part in “seining’’ on the bay (using large nets with sinkers and floats to enclose and catch fish) with park naturalists.

“This festival is always a very well-attended and anticipated event that traditionally marks a highlight on the Island Beach State Park calendar,” said Mark Texel, director of the State Park Service. “Dedicated partners like Friends of Island Beach State Park make the visitor experience at our park even better.  We encourage residents to come out to the festival on Sunday for their cause and for a great time.”

“This is our biggest fund raiser of the year and we anticipate the turnout to exceed last year’s, when we had more than 6,000 visitors,” said Patricia M. Vargo, president of Friends of Island Beach State Park. “With the participation and support of visitors who attend the festival, we can continue our mission of improving  and adding additional programs and events at Island Beach State Park.”

The volunteer Friends of Island Beach State Park was formed in 1996 to enhance interpretive, educational and recreational programs at the park and to encourage protection of the barrier island ecosystem. The group, now 150 members strong, publishes and distributes 30,000 copies of the park’s Visitor Guide annually, has funded improvements to the park’s Nature Center and Interpretive Center and installed a state-of-the-art camera with night vision to monitor an osprey nest at the park.

The Friends group also purchases American Beach Grass and organizes dune grass planting events every spring to promote stabilization of the park’s primary dunes. Those efforts took on increased importance over the past two years with dune stabilization needed after Superstorm Sandy.

“The Friends of Island Beach State Park have long been a vital partner to our park,” said park manager Ray Bukowski. “We are grateful for their contributions.”

The wild beach plum, which is native to Island Beach State Park and other coastal areas from Maine to Virginia, is a tart fruit usually measuring less than two centimeters in circumference and which ripens in early September. Some have described the taste of the bluish fruit as a mix between a plum, strawberry and apricot. It can be eaten raw, but is often used as a jam or jelly, marinade or dessert sauce. The plant can grow up to two meters high in its natural dune habitat and is salt-tolerant.

Last week, DEP announced that Island Beach State Park will provide lifeguard protection for beachgoers on extended weekends, from Friday to Monday, throughout September. The post-Labor Day lifeguarded beach, at Ocean Bathing Area 1, is a first for Island Beach State Park and is being put into place to offer a safer swimming experience for visitors who want to enjoy the full benefits of the beach after the peak summer season.

The beach at Ocean Bathing Area 1 will have lifeguard service on Sept. 5-8, Sept. 12-15, Sept. 19-22 and Sept. 26-29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Restrooms and showers at the bathing pavilion will be operating on those dates, as well.

For more information on Island Beach State Park, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/island.html

For more information on the Friends of Island Beach State Park, visit:
www.thefriendsofislandbeach.org

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Last Updated: September 2, 2014