Patricia Hershey evacuated her house with her daughter and seven dogs and found refuge at a firehouse when Hurricane Sandy struck the New Jersey coastline in October 2012. Hershey, a Seaside Heights resident, also experienced the destruction of her two businesses.
Despite of her loss, Hershey and her friends, Carol Kane and Melissa Nick, wanted to use the experience to the benefit of the community. This idea grew into the foundation of the Rutgers Center for Coastal Resilience in Seaside Heights.
“We thought that there’s good that can come out of devastation,” Hershey said. “So we thought, ‘how can we use it for the good of community?’”
Hershey said Nick, a Rutgers alumna and assistant project coordinator for the center, suggested they approach Rutgers to collaborate on a resilience project that would not only help students gain hands-on experience at construction, but also spread awareness on how to be better prepared for a coastal hazard.
Kane, project coordinator for the center, approached Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi a few months after Sandy, said Hershey, property owner for the project. He expressed a positive response and directed them to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the University.
On Friday, six Rutgers students from Rutgers School of Engineering headed to the center’s location at 1020 Ocean Terrace, Seaside Heights, N.J., to take a physical survey of measurements for the center.
Qizhong Guo, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the project plans to focus on areas like infrastructure, education and resilience from coastal storms and climate change.
“Students on Friday were involved with mapping and carrying out measurements,” Guo said. “It will also help them to interact with the local community, because that’s very important for civil engineers.”
Kane said the blueprint for the center includes two buildings located on 1020 and 1250 Ocean Terrace, which are 6,000-square-feet and 4,600-square-feet, respectively.
While the plan for one building is to have an administrative branch and classrooms set-up to teach courses, she said Mike DeLuca in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences is looking after the one to build a weather station for coastal resiliency.
Hershey said they are only waiting to accumulate sufficient funding from corporate sponsors, governor’s office, grants, general public, social media and donations. Besides the funding, they plan for the center to be ready by summer this year.
On Friday, students carried out surveys manually as well as through Lidar Technology using 3-D high resolution laser mapping, under the guidance of Jie Gong, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“We plan to have a lot more field trips in future for students to learn. The six students were awesome — they are wonderful to work with,” Kane said. “We were very excited to have the results.”
Once the center kicks off, with the motto of “rebuild, restore and research,” students from different universities can take classes and attend workshops over the summer, Hershey said
“I can’t wait for it to get started,” she said. “All professors are fantastic, they have a real enthusiasm for educating.”
She said the center is not only for the local community at Seaside Heights but for the entire bay area so the residents are well-prepared in dealing with a storm and issues like sledding and reconstruction in the future.
Kane said she hopes to encourage students to partake in the project and wants to see them get excited for the project.
“This is the perfect team to have together for this project,” Kane said. “Students have the ability to do it because it their future that we are building it for.’