Islip Beach is back.
More than 200 people gathered to celebrate its reopening early Wednesday, nearly nine months after it closed due to damage from superstorm Sandy.
"Welcome back to Islip Beach," Town Supervisor Tom Croci said during a news conference. "For those of you who know what this beach looked like after the hurricane . . . it's hard to believe that in the time we had that the beach is back and looks as good as it does today."
Of the estimated $28 million in damage the Oct. 29 storm did to Islip's recreation areas, $2 million occurred at Islip Beach.
The beach was the hardest hit of the town's 18 recreation facilities, Croci said, and it is the last to reopen after Sandy.
Following a struggle to obtain funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the town board approved a $1.77 million contract in May with Bensin Contracting of Holtsville to repair the area.
The work involved cleaning up storm debris, installing new playground equipment, repairing the boardwalks, pavilion and gazebo, demolishing the concession stand and building a more durable model.
Croci said the town "went into high gear" from the day Sandy hit to get the necessary funds to repair what he described as "the bread and butter" of the town, attracting about 450 visitors daily during a normal tourist season. Locals were very happy to see the beach back in business. Many arrived with their children and gear well before the official 11:15 a.m. reopening ceremony.
"I've been coming to this beach for years, so when Sandy happened, it was horrible. This is the only beach I bring my kids to because it's smaller and manageable," said Rosanne Dietz, 43, of Islip.
Members of Keep Islip Clean are also eager to resume their work at the beach, said Kay Erwood, commissioner for the organization.
Each year the team of volunteers plants flowers, removes trash and "keeps the beach beautiful," Erwood said.
The town has received about $9 million in reimbursements from FEMA, with another $50 million pending.
Among the celebrants Wednesday were Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and state Sen. Philip Boyle.