Visitors to Jones Beach State Park are an ethnically diverse crowd -- nearly half from New York City and about a third from Long Island -- drawn by the welcoming, family-friendly spot, according to a new study.
The demographic survey released Wednesday by the nonprofit Alliance for New York State Parks aimed to find out who visits Jones Beach and why, Erik Kulleseid, the alliance's executive director, said. The study "underscores the need for continued investment," and highlights the need to improve walkways, electric utilities and bathhouses that have been in disrepair for years and were damaged by superstorm Sandy, he said.
Of 625 visitors surveyed in July 2012, 46 percent self-identified as white, 33 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 10 percent as black, and the rest consisted of other ethnic groups. Half have been coming for 20 years or longer, and one-third for more than 30 years, the study said.
On an overcast, rainy day earlier this week, Davis Sherman, of Freeport, said he and his family trek there "all the time" for its "clean, open space." A Long Island Rail Road conductor, Sherman, 57, said he appreciated how different generations come together to enjoy the beach.
He is one of 6 million people who experience the 6.5 miles of white sand on Jones Beach, the most visited public facility on Long Island and second most-visited New York State park after Niagara Falls, Randy Simons, a spokesman for the state parks, said Tuesday. Repairs to the beach's facilities damaged by Sandy are complete, and three of its four piers are operational, Simons added.
Kim Melkun of Hicksville visited the beach Tuesday for the first time since Sandy. She said the landscape had visibly changed, but has fewer rocks and seaweed.
"The beach is beautiful, no matter what," Melkun said.
She was joined by dozens of others seeking a place to relax or a chance to relive old memories. A group of families from across Nassau -- Glen Head, Syosset, Franklin Square -- said because Jones is so accessible, they come every Tuesday.
Others came from farther away.
Bronx resident Iftekhar Khan, 28, pulled up in the taxi he drives in Manhattan to swim and let his 4-year-old daughter romp in the sand. Tsering Karto, of Queens, a Nepalese immigrant who cleans houses and hotels in Manhattan, came to relax on her day off.
"I love the beach, the sand, the waves, the view," Karto said. "It's stress-free."
Joan Case, who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Vermont, remembered coming to the beach as a teen and swimming in the bathhouse's saltwater pool. "Things do change," she said, noting the beach's appearance.
Case's daughter, Tricia Senzel, saw it differently. She visited the beach as a child and brought her 17-year-old son for the first time Tuesday.
"There's no mistaking Jones Beach."