New York State will spend $65 million to restore iconic Jones Beach to its original grandeur in one of the largest state park rehabilitation projects in the system's history.
The five-year project, to be announced Thursday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, will mark the facility's 85th anniversary this year. The largest rehabilitation effort ever at a Long Island state park, it involves restoring historic structures that have deteriorated or have been altered. As part of the project, the Central Mall will get a facelift, with gardens and native vegetation to be replanted and the fountain restored.
"The Jones Beach revitalization plan is one of our most historic projects and it will help to grow our tourism industry and help bring jobs to Long Island communities," Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. The project is expected to create more than 620 construction jobs.
World-famous Jones Beach State Park has 6.5 miles of white-sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean and more than 2,400 acres of maritime environment on the Island's South Shore, according to the state parks department. Jones Beach attendance -- the highest of any Long Island state park -- dipped to a little less than 2.8 million people in 2013, from slightly less than 3.4 million in 2012, state data show.
The new construction will make the park, badly damaged by superstorm Sandy, more weather-resistant, state officials said.
The park will add new food venues and menus, including a food marketplace at the former Boardwalk Restaurant, which was to become the Trump on the Ocean catering facility until Sandy inundated the site.
Recreational facilities will be built for activities not currently offered, including soccer, lacrosse, cricket, miniature golf, yoga, and an adventure play area complete with water features, rock climbing and a zip line.
The changes will be visible upon entering the park, with fee booths overhauled and automated to take various pay programs such as E-ZPass for the first time.
Visitors this summer will see the first changes: the newly restored historic West Bathhouse, which will open before Memorial Day weekend and includes exterior restoration as well as replacement of the pool deck and filtration system; and a pilot tent food marketplace project, with shaded seating, at the site of the former Boardwalk Restaurant.
Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said a public meeting will take place in May to get feedback on the plan before the rest of the work proceeds.
"Jones Beach revolutionized the way people spent their leisure time," Harvey said. "If ever there was a park deserving of this level of investment, it is the treasure that is Jones Beach."
Alexandra Parsons Wolfe, director of Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, which has been critical of the parks agency in the past for altering Jones Beach and allowing it to deteriorate, said, "We are very happy to see a level of capital investment being made that accurately responds to real needs and the historic and cultural importance of the site. The overall scope reflects a balanced approach toward blending old and new to create an experience that is fresh and engaging."
The planning work for the project was done with several hundred thousand dollars in funding by the Open Space Institute's Alliance for New York State Parks program, which helped with the designs.
"The transformational possibility of this project is enormously exciting," said Kim Elliman, president and chief executive of the Open Space Institute. Elliman said the project will "make the park more vibrant and appealing to future generations, while paying homage to its rich history and iconic status."
Cuomo said the $65 million will come from capital projects funded primarily through the NY Works initiative, which to date has invested $265 million into the park system with an additional $90 million proposed in the 2014-2015 executive budget.
Jones Beach restoration plan
Adventure play area: will replace pitch-and-putt golf course between Central Mall and East Bathhouse with zip lines, rock-climbing walls and multiple water-spray features.
New picnic areas: adjacent to the boardwalk and open space for outdoor exercise classes such as yoga and tai chi.
Fee booths: will be rebuilt and automated to accept various types of payment, including credit cards and E-ZPass.
Snack bar: On west side of Central Mall, this will be renovated into a seasonal restaurant with historic roof terrace seating revived. A food marketplace will be operated under tents on the former Boardwalk Restaurant site.
Catering space: West Bathhouse Historic Marine Dining Room on the second floor level will be recreated as catering space.
Field 6 restaurant: Open year-round, the concession building will be renovated into a diner-type restaurant with a menu that changes by the season.
Portable food vendors: will be right on the boardwalk for the first time. Between the East Bathhouse and Field 6. there will be a seasonal restaurant will open on the beach as a pilot project.
New recreational fields: For soccer, lacrosse and other sports, new recreational fields to be installed between Field 3 and 4 parking areas with new beach-themed, seaside playground.