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Thousands donated Christmas trees to help restore a state park that suffered after Hurricane Sandy

The sand dunes in a New Jersey state park are in trouble, but thanks to thousands of donated Christmas trees, the system is about to undergo a massive makeover.

Since Superstorm Sandy ripped through 24 states and all of the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, the dune system at Island Beach State Park hasn’t been quite the same, said park superintendent Jennifer Clayton.

Although significant efforts have been made to repair and restore the dunes, Clayton said there’s an ongoing need to strengthen the system.

The park, just 70 miles from Atlantic City, is home to ospreys, foxes, other wildlife and more than 400 species of plants.

The beach stretches across 10 miles, with a shoreline of dense maritime forests, rolling sand dunes and tidal marshes.

When New Jersey State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites asked its online community to donate their Christmas trees, their goal was collect at least 200. But to their surprise, they now have 2,000.

The trees will hopefully help “mitigate things like climate change, sea level rise and storm surges,” Clayton said. She attributes the continuous damage on the dunes to climate change as the staff witnesses more and more holes in the system where bare areas of sand are exposed.

“These donated trees will help to improve our dune system by filling in areas where dune growth is needed the most,” the department wrote on Facebook. “The trees help to capture sand that is blown and grows the dune at a much faster rate than they would naturally.”

The park was confident they would meet their Christmas tree donation goal. A previous request for tree donations, made immediately after Sandy, was also successful.

Clayton said it’s a great feeling to know that the community supports the park system and want the beach to stay healthy.

On Saturday, Clayton said, the department will have about 260 volunteers help move and position the trees to areas on the dunes that need them the most.

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