Bearing signs of Sandy’s strength, Island Beach State Park reopens

New Jersey’s Island Beach State Park is open again for walking and sport fishing after the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy.

Most of the sand and debris the storm deposited on the park’s roadway have been removed, but there are illustrations of Sandy’s massive still to be found.

State Park Service director Mark Texel says the boardwalks were destroyed, but the bath houses, the governor’s mansion, and other buildings escaped Sandy’s wrath.

“We had slight damage, some flooding, a few tiles and roof damage, but it’s really the dunes themselves that took the most amount of damage,” Texel said Friday. “The primary and secondary dunes in the lower, I would say, six to seven miles of the island are virtually gone.”

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Park manager Ray Bukowski pointed to one of the most dramatic displays of the storm’s fury. A 40-foot-long barge that washed ashore in a 1992 storm had been buried beneath the sand as part of a dune. It scraped away the roadway as it was pushed into the park’s woodland by Sandy’s storm surge.

“The barge ended up getting unearthed from 20 feet down under the sand, and it came just about a half a mile west. There’s trees between where it came from and here,” Bukowski said. “So lord knows how high the water was when it came across.”

Three cars from the destroyed roller coaster ride in Seaside Heights ended up buried in the park’s sand.

Island Beach State Park contains close to 10 miles of sandy beach along Barnegat Bay. At the southern end of the park, stones at the jetty along the Barnegat Inlet were undermined and toppled.

The Army Corp of Engineers is assessing how to deal with that damage.

Meanwhile, Christmas trees have been arranged in a line on their sides along the beach to help form natural dunes.

Officials say, while the process of restoring the dunes to a large protective size could take years, they hope to have the entire park open by Memorial Day.

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