Long Island's beach parks, scarred by superstorm Sandy, are back in business for the start of the unofficial summer season, with much of the damage restored, but with services at the national seashore curtailed by federal budget cuts.
Seven months ago, the public beaches experienced unprecedented damage -- stripped of sand, dunes flattened, boardwalks twisted or washed away, buildings and utilities flooded.
Long Island's 1,100 miles of shoreline are essential to its character and economy, drawing tourists and local day-trippers, and generating jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
So all levels of government threw their employees and dozens of contractors into an accelerated effort to get all of the parks open by Memorial Day, and they succeeded. The last one -- Nassau County's Nickerson Beach Park -- reopened on Friday. Cleanup and restoration work continues there and at dozens of other federal, state, county and town parks.
"Destruction caused by superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement when Robert Moses reopened. "However, the perseverance and hard work of New Yorkers has allowed us to get all of our parks back open in time for the Memorial Day weekend -- the unofficial kickoff to summer."
Chris Soller, superintendent at Fire Island National Seashore, said, "We've done initial repairs to get everything open, but we'll be doing some major work over the course of the summer because it's been taking a while to get contractors in place."
The initial repairs included installing new stairs at Watch Hill to reconnect the boardwalk to the beach.
Soller said he had to trim $240,000 from his budget because of the congressional budget deadlock that forced across-the-board cuts in federal spending. So lifeguards were on duty at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven this weekend, but won't be back until the end of June. Usually they would be working weekends after Memorial Day until late June, and then daily after that, which is still the plan.
Visitor centers at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven won't be open Mondays and Tuesdays through the summer.
Visitors to Fire Island National Seashore will see new signs alerting them that they can no longer be nude on any of the beaches, mainly because of complaints.
The National Park Service facility is handling backcountry camping reservations differently. They can now be made online at recreation.gov after previously being taken on a first-come, first-served basis at the park. All backcountry check-in and access is now at Watch Hill only -- no longer Smith Point -- because of the breach in the barrier island from Sandy.
At the state level, Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island reopened Thursday -- the last of the Long Island state parks damaged by Sandy to welcome back visitors. The storm-undermined traffic circle has been rebuilt and more than 500,000 cubic yards of sand were used to replenish the eroded beaches at Fields 4 and 5.
The Central Mall at Jones Beach, where Sandy twisted the boardwalk into roller-coaster contortions, also reopened for the holiday weekend.
A new 0.7-mile access path that provides a safer direct link between the Wantagh Parkway bike-pedestrian path and Jones Beach is open for the holiday weekend. It runs through the Jones Beach Theater parking area to the pedestrian underpass leading to the East Bathhouse.
State park patrons will see tougher smoking restrictions. Now all sandy beach areas, boardwalks, pools, developed playing fields, playgrounds, pavilions and shelters are to be smoke-free.
At Smith Point County Park, the concrete walkway and stairs to the beach damaged by Sandy were restored.
On Friday, Nassau County's only shoreline park -- Nickerson Park in Lido Beach -- opened for the first time since Sandy eroded its beach and dunes and flooded the facility. County Executive Edward Mangano said the pool, hot water heaters, sidewalks and cabanas have been repaired or upgraded, and a new concession building has been constructed.
Where parks stand
Pool, walkways, utilities and cabanas repaired.
About 1.5 miles of boardwalk have been repaired with more resilient materials such as Brazilian hardwood but some temporary railings remain. The sewage treatment plant is back online. Electrical panels raised 10 to 12 feet to reduce chance of future flooding damage. Repairs to Field 10 fishing piers and boat basin are continuing.
Traffic circle repaired and park reopened last Thursday. More than 500,000 cubic yards of dredged sand have been pumped onto the eroded beaches at Fields 4 and 5 with replenishment to continue until the end of June. The boardwalk has been repaired, except for the areas the state decided were too vulnerable.
PLANTING FIELDS STATE HISTORIC PARK
Repair of Camellia Greenhouse should be completed by July.
CAUMSETT STATE HISTORIC PARK PRESERVE
Repairs to Plank Road are ongoing.
GOVERNOR ALFRED E. SMITH/SUNKEN MEADOW
Fully open except for access to eastern part of the park where dike was breached.
Open with repair work continuing.
CALEB SMITH STATE PARK PRESERVE
Replacement of four damaged wooden trail bridges and tree removal will continue into the summer.
CONNETQUOT RIVER STATE PARK PRESERVE
Repairs to roof of Main House and tree cleanup are continuing.
Repairs to Field 7 won't be completed until late June.
FIRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE
Fire Island Lighthouse is open, but the boardwalk leading from Robert Moses State Park has not been replaced yet, so the only access is along ocean beach. At Watch Hill, destroyed boardwalk stairs leading to the beach have been repaired.
Marinas are open but electric service at Watch Hill is under repair and debris is being removed from the east side at Sailors Haven.
The concrete walkway and stairs to the beach repaired. But possible limited access for day trips and no outer beach camping.
CUPSOGUE BEACH COUNTY PARK
The breach west of campground has been repaired but the access road is not passable for vehicles.
The concrete patio and parking lot damaged by the storm were repaired by this weekend.
Park reopened April 27 after access road rebuilt but minor repairs will continue through summer.
MONTAUK DOWNS STATE PARK
Repair of the roof and other damage will continue through summer.
Cleanup of damaged trees will continue past Memorial Day.