LAVALLETTE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Aside from the sand and surf themselves, nothing says “Jersey shore” like a boardwalk.
While most of the seaside walkways were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, almost all of them will be rebuilt and ready to go when the first crowds arrive Friday for Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of the summer tourist season.
On Monday, Lavallette held a ceremony to officially reopen its boardwalk, three-quarters of which was wrecked by the Oct. 29 storm. Mayor Walter LoCicero said having a boardwalk has long been part of his town’s identity.
“It’s a great draw,” he said. “Families stroll or ride their bikes on it. Kids love it. We were certainly hurting without it.”
Rebuilding the 1.1-mile walkway cost about $1.3 million, 25 percent of which the town will have to pay, with the federal government covering the rest.
“It’s a huge psychological boost for the town,” the mayor said. “It’s highly symbolic to the rest of the shore to show that you can recover from something like this.”
Gov. Chris Christie attended the ceremony and as he has for months, promised that every boardwalk ruined by Sandy will be rebuilt and ready for Memorial Day. That’s largely true, but a small boardwalk in the town next door, the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, won’t be. Reconstruction work on it just began two weeks ago, and the town expects it to be finished sometime in June.
“Everything that gives people a sense of normalcy from an abnormal situation helps in terms of getting people to come back,” Christie said. “In Lavallette, in large sections, it doesn’t look a damn bit different than it did last year.”
“This is the first symbol for us of making sure this week that everybody across the state, across the region and across America knows that the Jersey Shore is open for the summer and ready to receive our customers,” Christie said at a ceremony along the Lavallette boardwalk on Monday.
Christie is to attend a similar event Wednesday for Belmar’s boardwalk, which was the first to be rebuilt. That work wrapped up on April 30.
“I’ll be traveling up and down the Jersey Shore all week this week having the real pleasure of seeing the great work that all the tradespeople and the local officials have done to get boardwalks open,” Christie said. “We’ll have every boardwalk up and down the Jersey Shore open and ready for business on Memorial Day Weekend. And if I predicted that to you when I came here the first week in November for the first time when everything looked the way it looked, we all would’ve wondered whether that could be possible. But because we all worked together, we fought hard for each other, it’s not only possible it’s happening and it’s happening this week.”
Asbury Park and Spring Lake are also finished with their boardwalks, and Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant Beach, and Avon will be opening theirs this week, along with the Monmouth beach bathing pavilion. To the south, famous boardwalks including Ocean City and the Wildwoods suffered little if any damage from the storm and have been open and ready for months.
Diane Potella brought her 3-year-old daughter Carmella Davies to walk on the boardwalk Monday and play in the sand around it — something she has missed being able to do since the storm hit last fall.
“We’re extremely excited they were able to get it back and ready this fast,” Potella said. “A lot of homes still need work, but people are starting to get their insurance money and come back and start fixing things up, which is what we’ve been doing, too. It’s just nice to have this back again.”
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