Bring on the waves.
Long Islanders received a bit of good news Monday that all New York State-run beaches and parks are expected to be open by Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer, despite significant damage from Sandy.
Many area parks and beaches were battered by the October superstorm, which caused extensive damage to shore-front roads, structures and contributed to significant dune and beach erosion. Several repair projects are still ongoing, some of which will continue after the parks are opened.
“Our parks and beaches are not only popular destinations for vacationers, but they are also important economic drivers for our communities,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We will continue to work diligently to ensure that these great assets are in safe and good condition for visitors to enjoy this summer.”
The news was met with cheers from local officials still dealing with post-Sandy repairs. Officials noted the economic boost of opening up the parks just in time for the holiday weekend.
In 2012, more than 18 million people visited state parks and beaches on Long Island and four state parks on LI—Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Sunken Meadow and Heckscher—ranked in the top 10 in the state.
“Our parks and beaches on Long Island are the escape that people need,” said New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, adding that Jones Beach State Park has more yearly visitors than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. “Sandy caused a lot of destruction but our crews and contractors are fiercely working to get us in great shape to kick off the summer.”
But plenty of repair work remains before the parks and beaches can be opened to visitors.
Many of Jones Beach’s electrical vaults were submerged during Sandy and crews are still working to replace and raise panels to prevent damage from future storms. The beach’s popular theater, which was submerged in four feet of water, is still a work in progress. The theater suffered damage to the VIP boardwalk, tented areas, orchestra seating and entire electrical system, officials said.
Fields 2, 5, 10 and West End 2 of Jones Beach are currently open to the public but areas between the West Bathhouse and the East Bathouse remain closed due to boardwalk damage.
Crews are also installing planking on top of the Central Mall and lifeguard stands in that area, including Field 2.
At Robert Moses State Park, workers are currently restoring a section of the roadway at the south side of the park’s traffic circle that collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean after Sandy, officials said. Construction at the beach includes placing 500,000 cubic yards of sand to replenish Fields 4 and 5, and more than 300,000 cubic yards of that sand is being dredged from the Captree State Boat Channel. All parking fields will be open come Memorial Day, officials said.
“We are confident that Memorial Day Weekend will be as good or better as we saw last year,” said New York State Parks Deputy Regional Director George Gorman.
Construction efforts are being funded by the state but parks department officials will soon apply for federal reimbursement.