LINCROFT, N.J. -- Boardwalks are the backbone of many of New Jersey’s shore communities. Often lined with shops, amusements and restaurants, and serving as the main access points to beaches, boardwalks are the magnets that attract tourists to beach towns.
The United States’ first boardwalk was built in Atlantic City in 1870. The brainchild of rail conductor Alexander Boardman and hotel owner Jacob Keim, its stated purpose was to keep visitors to the resort from tracking sand from the beach back into the hotels and onto the train cars.
For many shore towns affected by Superstorm Sandy, rebuilding the beaches and boardwalks – and rebuilding them by the start of the summer tourist season – became a top priority.
The Federal Emergency Management Authority has obligated $79 million in aid for 84 boardwalk and beach repair projects. Communities up and down the Jersey Shore employed different methods of beach replenishment and protection.
Some municipalities constructed timber bulkheads, large rock walls and/or concrete seawalls. To stabilize their dunes, some placed geotubes (tubes filled with sand and water wrapped in geotextile fabric) and gabions (wire baskets filled with large rocks) underneath the dunes. Geotubes have been used on the north end of Ocean City and along Cape May’s beaches. Gabions were used in the West Atlantic City portion of Little Egg Harbor. Officials in these and other shore communities credited those measures with protecting homes and residents from Sandy. Mantoloking and Brick Township are two communities now considering using geotubes.
Atlantic City’s boardwalk suffered its most severe damage to the section that borders Absecon Inlet, between Oriental and Maine avenues. FEMA obligated $2.5 million to repair and replace the boardwalk, ramps, railings, and lifeguard and comfort stations. A new seawall is also being built along the Absecon Inlet section of the boardwalk. Atlantic City and neighboring Ventnor will receive a combined 2 million cubic yards of sand to replenish the beaches in both communities. Brigantine used 630,000 cubic yards of sand to replenish its beach.
Parts of Long Beach Island had 22-foot-high dunes and a 200-foot berm in front of coastal homes. The Sandy Disaster Relief Act will provide funds for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the project on the whole island. Three million cubic yards of sand were dredged and pumped onto the beach. Repairs were also made to the boardwalk, sand fence and access roads at Island Beach State Park. The Corps is also making first-time beach restorations in Ship Bottom, Beach Haven and Long Beach Township, areas not protected by the original dunes and berm on the island.
Belmar’s 1.3-mile boardwalk and everything on it was destroyed by Sandy. Construction started in January and the new boardwalk opened May 22. FEMA covered $9.2 million of the $10.2 million cost of the project. Belmar is also designing a new $6 million dune system to protect the new boardwalk.
FEMA obligated $1.6 million for the reconstruction of Sea Girt’s boardwalk. Parts of the boardwalk that were damaged will be repaired using salvaged boards and rails. A 2,335-foot section will be rebuilt as the second phase of the project. The municipality is also rebuilding its dunes, which prevented serious damage to homes but took the brunt of the storm surge. The new dunes are expected to be more than 20 feet high.
Spring Lake’s boardwalk, which had been seriously damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, was hit again by Sandy. The storm pushed the boardwalk off its supports, damaged several support piles, and completely washed away the dunes protecting the boardwalk and town. FEMA reimbursed the borough for $4.1 million of the $5.5 million cost of rebuilding the boardwalk. The new boardwalk, made of a composite wood, was completed in April.
Seaside Heights had to take out a $14 million emergency appropriation loan to pay for essential repairs to its boardwalk and other areas after Sandy. Construction on the boardwalk began in mid-February, and a six-block section of the mile-long boardwalk was completed in early May. The main section reopened days before Memorial Day, and the $7.6 million reconstruction was completed in mid-June. Mayor William Akers has also suggested that a seawall may be built, though no decision has been made, and as a new project, it would be ineligible for FEMA funding.
Not all of the boardwalks along the shore have been restored. The older southern portion of the Long Branch boardwalk will not be rebuilt until 2014. “My goal isn’t to get it done quickly, it’s to make sure it is done right,” Mayor Adam Schneider said in December.
FEMA is covering $6.2 million of the $8.2 million cost of various repair projects in Long Branch, including completely rebuilding the southern section and repairing damage to the northern section. While the newer northern section, including Pier Village and the Long Branch Promenade, did not escape Sandy unscathed, Schneider said that section of boardwalk was designed to survive a hurricane, “and it did.”
Next, the One Year Later series examines the restoration of the Atlantic Highlands Harbor, a vital link to lower Manhattan.
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