SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Declaring the Jersey shore officially open for business, Gov. Chris Christie cut a more than 5 mile-long ribbon Friday to mark the start of the summer tourist season.
The length of the ribbon, which symbolically tied together several shore communities that were hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy, set a new Guinness World Record. Mike Janela, an adjudicator with Guinness, said the ribbon bested the previous record by more than a mile.
“Anybody who lives in New Jersey, the Jersey shore is in your heart,” Christie said. “This means everything to our state.”
Tourism is a $38 billion industry in New Jersey and shore towns are counting on a good summer to help them recoup major losses they incurred after the storm.
Christie said about 80 percent of the shore will look as it did last summer and acknowledged more work needs to be done to fully recover.
CBS 2’s Christine Sloan was on hand as the Governor told reporters that rebuilding the shore wasn’t about politics.
“When you’re the Governor you’re not a Republican or Democrat. You have a job to do, frankly I am gratified people on the other side of the aisle are willing to work with me the same way I am willing to work with them,” he said.
Up and down the shoreline, boardwalks have been rebuilt and beaches are open, though many of them are narrower this year. Southern New Jersey resorts such as Ocean City and the Wildwoods had relatively little damage.
When the storm hit in October, New Jersey sustained an estimated $37 billion worth of damage, with 360,000 houses and apartment units damaged.
In Seaside Heights where the storm swept a roller coaster into the ocean, everything from the shops to the carnival rides had to be ripped out, repaired or replaced.
Business owners and town leaders have spent the off-season frantically working to put it back together.
“You will be able to access the entire boardwalk and you will be able to access the entire beach,” said Seaside Heights Mayor William Akers.
“Some people will say that, why are you building up the boardwalk when there are no homes? This is just what people in New Jersey look forward to in the fall, in the winter, in the cold spring days. This is just what we do here,” resident Casey Damron told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.
Much of the rebuilding has already been completed. The roller coaster was taken away earlier this month, but Casino Pier plans to have 18 rides open this summer.
“You’re going to have you Midway Cheesesteaks, you’re going to have your funnel cake, you’re going to be able to play your games, your dart games and toss games and basketball shot games and things like that,” Akers told WCBS 880’s’Sean Adams.
On Long Beach Island, Mayor Joe Mancini said their beaches are ready for summer.
“The engineered dunes that were in place totally protected everything west of those dunes,” Mancini told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “Our beaches right now are in pretty good shape.”
Mancini said the Army Corps of Engineers plans on replenishing sand at some of the harder hit beaches, including Brant Beach, Surf City and Harvey Cedars.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama plans to give the Jersey shore a boost with a post-Memorial Day visit to showcase recovery efforts.
The White House says the president will tour the coastline with Christie and speak about the need to expand economic opportunities for middle-class families hit by the storm.
He plans to meet with business and home owners who have benefitted from the recovery.
To see a list of open Jersey shore beaches or for more information, visit www.state.nj.us.
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