August 15, 2013
An important part of any natural disaster recovery is strategizing around ways to prevent or limit the damage of future disasters. That was on the agenda in Mays Landing recently as about 40 local residents participated in a forum sponsored by the Community Foundation’s New Jersey Recovery Fund. Scroll down for coverage of the event from Shore News Today.
WHYY storm preparedness forum hosted by ACCC‘Ready for next time?’ was the theme of a forum held at the Mays Landing campus of Atlantic Cape Community College on Monday, Aug. 5. The event, a collaboration of WHYY/NewsWorks and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, was one in a series of five public forums on ‘Rethinking the Shore after Hurricane Sandy.’ The series of forums is funded by The New Jersey Recovery Fund at the Community Foundation of New Jersey.
The goal of the project, according to a handout at the forum, is “to produce a set of touchstone principles for leaders, communities and individuals to use when grappling with the cascade of decisions that will face them not just this year, but for years to come; principles that address not just how to clean up from the last storm, but how to prepare for the next one.”
The group of about 40 participants was divided into three groups, and following a short video and comments from Chris Satullo of WHYY and Harris Sokoloff from the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, sent off into breakout sessions.
In moderator-led sessions, attendees were asked to give their opinions on three separate approaches to development at the shore: ‘Rebuild and Prepare,’ ‘Rethink and Adapt’ and ‘Restore and Retreat.’ Those three philosophies ranged from rebuilding (with government aid when necessary) to restore the shore to what it was before the storm, to severely limiting development on the barrier islands in order to prevent future damage to homes and businesses.
“I fear that we are not addressing long-term impacts,” said participant George Loza, an architect from Brigantine. “People only care about what will happen in their lifetimes. If I was a gambler, I’ll bet this will happen again, sooner or later.”
“We can’t rebuild everything exactly the same,” responded Heather Lin, from Upper Township. “It would be foolish to go through this again.”
Mike Sees from Wildwood Crest had a different view of things. A former Florida resident, he lived four miles inland and was displaced for six months due to hurricanes.
“Natural disasters are a part of life,” he said. “I live four blocks from the beach, and if my home was damaged in a storm, I would rebuild.”
Former Hamilton Township Mayor John Percy, who currently serves on that township’s emergency management team, said he has been through every storm locally since 1944, and that there is a need for improved coordination to have people prepared to evacuate.
Citing the numerous weather events of the past year, including the hurricane, earthquake and derecho, Percy added, “We won’t have the money to rebuild everyone’s homes; they will have to take care of themselves.”
At the wrap-up following the breakout sessions, there seemed to be a consensus that government needs to do more before, during and after a storm – and that those who live in shore communities do not want to leave.
Participants seemed to be in agreement that there are no easy answers to development at the shore.
“I went to the forum last week as well as this one because we all need education on this matter,” said Lin. “However, I still don’t know the best approach.”