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The Pin Oak Forest Conservation Area is a 97-acre tract of open space that contains an extremely valuable wetland complex at the headwaters of Woodbridge Creek in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The site is located in a heavily developed landscape of northern Middlesex County and is surrounded by industrial, commercial, and residential development. As such, the area has suffered from wetland and stream channel degradation, habitat fragmentation, decreased biodiversity due to invasive species, and ecological impairment. The site was viewed as one of only a few large-scale freshwater wetland restoration opportunities remaining in this highly developed region of New Jersey.
Princeton Hydro designed a restoration plan for this site that converted ~29 acres of degraded freshwater wetlands, 0.33 acres of disturbed uplands dominated by invasive species, and over 1,000 linear feet of degraded or channelized streams into a species-rich and highly functional headwater wetland complex. Princeton Hydro used an innovative approach to restore the hydraulic connection of the stream channel with its floodplain in order to support wetland enhancement. To further enhance wetlands with hydrologic uplift, the team incorporated microtopography techniques, which created a variable surface that increases groundwater infiltration and niches that support multiple habitat communities. This resulted in a spectrum of wetland and stream habitats, including the establishment of a functional system of floodplain forest, scrub shrub, emergent wetlands, and open water. Biodiversity also heavily increased by the removal of invasive species. Removing the invasive species opened the door for establishing key native flora like red maple, pin oak, swamp white oak, and swamp rose. The restored headwater wetland system also provides stormwater quality management, floodplain storage, enhanced groundwater recharge onsite, and surface water flows to Woodbridge Creek.
Completed in 2017, the integrated complex of various wetland and upland communities continues to provide high quality habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species including the state-threatened Black-crowned Night Heron and Red-headed Woodpecker. Public and private partnerships were, and continue to be, critical to the success of this project. The diverse partnerships include Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation, Woodbridge Township, Woodbridge River Watch, New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council, GreenTrust Alliance, GreenVest, and Princeton Hydro. The Pin Oak Forest Stream, Wetland, and Upland Enhancement project is a great model for showcasing a successful approach to the enhancement of public lands through a dynamic multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder partnership. And, thanks to proper planning and design, this site has become a thriving wildlife oasis tucked in the middle of a densely-populated suburban landscape.
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