Belmar's Choice of Boardwalk Wood Draws Ire of Environmental Groups

Sierra Club sends mayor letter

An open letter to Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty from Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club:

Dear Mayor Doherty,

We are deeply concerned by the proposed use of Ipe (e-pay) for the reconstruction of the Belmar boardwalk. The Sierra Club has worked closely with Belmar in the past and the municipality has been at the forefront of environmental issues.  We know that the community wants to rebuild the boardwalk as quickly as possible but this must not be used as an excuse to undermine environmental protections not just in New Jersey but internationally.

As a community that has suffered catastrophic impacts from storm surge and sea level rise, Belmar should be concerned about the impacts of global climate change and the impacts from severe weather.  Clear cutting rainforests in the Amazon should not be promoted by a community as environmentally conscience as Belmar.  There is no sustainable way to harvest Ipe and there are no certified programs to do so.  Using this wood impacts critically and environmentally important rainforest and adds greenhouse gases, increasing climate disruption. 

Using Ipe results in the destruction of many of the last remaining places for important species that are in some cases more than endangered.  Using Ipe results in the destruction of places that are important for scientific research and help develop important biomedical advances.  These practices chase indigenous people out of their historic homelands.  Shipping the wood over 6,000 miles from the Amazon increases the climate change footprint of the boardwalk project.  We believe using public money to pay for this unsustainable wood is wrong.

There are better alternatives.  Your current boardwalk is made out of recycled plastic and that is still the best option.  It removes plastic from landfills and encourages recycling.  Plastic wood such as Trex and others are actually better because do not get splinters, they are cooling on your feet when walking barefoot, they are softer if people fall, and they last longer.  By using the recycled plastic you help protect rainforests. 

Alternatives woods can also be used.  Black locust is an invasive species in the northeast which can be used.  The municipality should also look at using salvaged wood, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. 

Belmar has been a leader in environmental protections and is a Sustainable and Cool Cities community.  We believe using Ipe for the boardwalk goes against what Belmar believes in.  In the rush to rebuild we must not cause long term environmental damage.  As a coastal community Belmar should not be contributing to climate disruption and sea level rise.  We hope you reconsider and instead use a more sustainable material for the boardwalk reconstruction.  We need to rebuild the shore as quickly as possible but we need to do it better and smarter.   

Thank you for considering these comments.



Jeff Tittel

Director, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club

jerseyswamps December 28, 2012 at 08:27 AM
Mr. Tittel, If ipe is grown on farms then what's the problem? How can you say the product you are pushing is cool to bare feet? Maybe in January but not in the summer. It's like walking on black asphalt. You may not get splinters but little kids will get blisters from burns. It sags. it needs a lot more support than wood. Mr. Mayor, I was going to buy some boards for the rebuilding. Perhaps many. But only if you use real wood.
jerseyswamps December 28, 2012 at 08:39 AM
Mr. Tittel, You want a real project? I think it is something we will all support. Most communities get these tiny "newspapers" tossed at the foot of our driveways from speeding cars. Some get more than one. They are all advertisements. Many blow into the streets or are left there by homeowners. Nobody reads them. They get soaked. They are in unsealed plastic bags. They turn into pulp in plastic bags. They get washed into our sewers. Then what? Don't they get washed out into our waters? You want us to not use plastic bags at food stores but I never hear anything about the bags at the end our our driveways.
Dame Bridgid December 28, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Barking up the wrong tree yet again Mr Tittle! Another case of failing to research a subject thoroughly before issuing a statement. He already has egg on his face with the false claims made about a brewery in NJ last year. Belmar is rebuilding in a responsible manner by using non plastic sustainable farmed wood products. The Sierra Club preasident is recommending PLASTICS???? How is that GOOD for our shore environment? In my opinion, his reality check bounced!
Marina December 29, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Dear Mayor Doherty, Just once I want to see somebody to tell this Jeff Tittel and his nut-job cronies from the Sierra Club to shut up and go away. IPE is fine. We want IPE. Do what you need to do to rebuild. What FEMA is giving you is NOT an open checkbook. IPE is good and lasts forever at a much lower cost then those fake plastic boardwalks. These kooks (Jeff and Sierra Club) are not happy until they destroy everything that THEY feel is not correct. Please just ignore him. Thank you!!!!
Frank Ross January 01, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Now im gonna use as much wood as possible for whatever I can. The Sierra Club can take their cry baby antics and shove it .


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