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SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - For one Jersey Shore town, new progress has been made on the journey back from Superstorm Sandy.
The boardwalk is the backbone of any shore town. No boardwalk means no tourists and no money.
In Seaside Heights, they made it a priority and, on Wednesday, awarded a $3.6 million rebuilding contract.
“A lot of people love Seaside and want to see what’s happening this year,” Mayor William Akers said. “If they don’t come back, we don’t eat.”
Borough Administrator John Camera said they’ll be ready to see you by Memorial Day.
“We’ll be open. They should make their reservations at their hotels. We are starting our season soon with the St. Patrick’s Day parade that will still be here,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “But as far as the boardwalk and the rest of the town, make your reservations for this summer because that’s when everything will be open.”
“So many people have felt our pain because that’s what it was to them. That’s how they remember coming up the rides and the big beach and the smells as you’re walking along up there,” Akers told Adams. “You know, we want to have that back. We don’t want to lose that.”
The new boardwalk, which will cover the entire mile-long length of the old one, will have longer pilings (25-feet-long), beefier bolts, and hurricane straps.
The borough was also looking into constructing a sea wall to protect the boardwalk from future storms.
Florence Birban, a 47-year resident, said the boardwalk means a lot to homeowners.
“We need a boardwalk here to bring in the revenue and keep our taxes from going up, hopefully,” she said. “It just looks wrong without a boardwalk. I look up the street and I don’t see one, and it’s not right.”
Seaside Heights is the second major boardwalk to see rebuilding begin; Belmar started work on its walkway last week. Spring Lake has also started fixing its boardwalk, as has Point Pleasant Beach.
Thus far in Seaside Heights, there is no plan yet to remove the remains of the Jet Star roller coaster from the ocean, where it sits after plunging off a collapsing pier during the storm. The coaster’s private owners are negotiating with insurers over how and when a salvage operation will be carried out.
But town officials are anxious to have it removed; last week a man sailed a small boat to the coaster, climbed to the top of it and affixed a flag to the top before being talked down and arrested by police. Officials and some residents are worried about liability for the coaster if someone is injured on or near it. The beachfront remains off-limits and is guarded by police and State Troopers.
They are looking for bids from companies interested in performing the removal.
Also of note is the fact that nearby Seaside Park ended police checkpoints at the entrance to town on Route 35 Thursday morning, having recovered sufficiently from the storm to permit normal traffic flow. It ended a system of permits and stickers that only allowed residents and contractors into town in the aftermath of the storm.
A 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. pedestrian curfew will remain in effect. The beaches, boardwalk, marina and bay front areas remain off limits.
Similar checkpoints remain in effect in the northern half of Mantoloking, which officials say won’t be able to be repopulated until late spring or early summer due to severe damage from the storm.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)