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.
Director, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club