Government officials and conservationists are expected to gather at Surfside Marina in Sea Bright later this morning for a press conference to announce that Rumson has purchased the 20 acres of Gunning Island that it didn’t already own, for $2.05 million.

The entirety of the 32-acre island in the Shrewsbury River will now be off-limits to development, officials say, and its role as a wildlife habitat and stopover for migratory birds will be preserved.

The deal was brokered by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit. It involved the donation of the property by the owner, Blum Island Inc., to the Monmouth County Boy Scout Council, which in turn sold it to Rumson, according to a press release.

“The conservation of Gunning Island ensures that this undeveloped island and its ecological, educational, and recreational benefits will be forever protected for current and future generations of New Jerseyans,” said Terrence Nolan, state field office director of the Trust for Public Land. “We are very grateful to all of the partners in this project and for the leadership of New Jersey’s congressional delegation for securing critical federal funding for this effort.”

The release says the state’s congressional delegation “secured federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program to protect the property.

The press conference, scheduled for 10:30a, is expected to feature remarks by local, county and state officials.

From the press release:

“The Borough of Rumson is very pleased to be a part of the preservation of Gunning Island and in preserving the unique features of the Navesink and Shresbury rivers that surround the borough,” said Mayor John Ekdahl. “Preserving the island as open space will allow future generations to enjoy and participate in recreation activities on the rivers that surround us.”

The effort conserves scenic views and protects wildlife habitat and water quality. The newly created wildlife preserve will is accessible by water to kayakers, canoeists, student groups, birders, and others for recreation and wildlife viewing…

Gunning Island is located in the Shrewsbury River where it flows into Raritan Bay just south of Sandy Hook. Nestled between Monmouth County, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York, Raritan Bay forms one of the outermost sections of the New York-New Jersey Harbor ecosystem. The shoreline, wetlands, and uplands of the bays are ecologically important habitats for birds, marine life, and fisheries. There are few remaining parcels of open space in the watersheds draining into Raritan Bay, the most densely populated region in the United States.

Gunning Island was a natural sedge island before being supplemented by dredged soil from the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers. The augmented island has quickly filled in with native flora and fauna, and is rapidly becoming an important stopover point for migratory birds, also acting as permanent habitat to birds and other animals. The adjacent sedge islands also benefit from the conservation of Gunning Island.

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