Natco Lake Park is a heavily forested, 286-acre park with diverse upland and wetland habitats and topography. Established in 1978 on the property of a former brick manufacturing site, it is connected to the nearby Raritan Bay via a tidal creek.
The Township recognized the need for conservation management to protect the park’s biodiversity—at risk due to encroaching development, proliferation of invasive species, and damage to sensitive habits caused by problematic trail placement—while inviting safe recreational use for residents.
GZA completed a three-season in-field analysis to establish a baseline of the park’s current biodiversity. GZA ecologists used a variety of taxa survey methodologies in the process. GZA’s proprietary Terrestrial Rapid Bioassessment (TRBA) tool—which uses insects, mainly nocturnal Lepidoptera, i.e., moths, as the primary indicator of ecological health by correlating individual species observed with different habitats/indicators of ecological disturbance—was among a suite of assessment techniques employed. GZA’s conservation management recommendations included: remove and manage non-native and invasive flora; redirect trails to protect sensitive habitats, installing wildlife blinds and educational signage to increase awareness of the park’s ecological significance; introduce site-specific habitat enhancements to invite raptors such as ospreys and bald eagles to nest in the park; accentuate the park’s entry with a pollinator garden and educational signage. The tick survey, developed in collaboration with Dr. Emile DeVito of the NJ Conservation Foundation, determined that periodic blowing of trail edges significantly reduced prevalence of ticks on trails.
The comprehensive assessment and practical conversation management recommendations have created a navigable path for improvement of the park’s biodiversity and the visitor experience.