A recent article in Newsday announced the re-opening of Field 2 and the West End 2 area of Jones Beach State Park for the first time since the closure caused by hurricane Sandy . While this is understandably a move to bring back a sense of normalcy, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is gambling with visitors' safety until the barracks is back online and critical infrastructure is repaired.
The state park suffered tremendous damage during hurricane Sandy. Mountains of sand were deposited into the majority of parking fields, the iconic boardwalk is splintered and completely destroyed at many locations, and the storm surge completely flooded and devastated administration and concession buildings.
OPRHP appears to plan on restricting patrons' access to the majority of the storm-damaged areas by simply informing people that they are off limits. As I've seen firsthand, signs, barricades and instructions alone will not sway people from visiting areas that are not safe. This traffic and trespassing will further hamper the recovery of the park and the Department of Transportation's efforts to make critical repairs to Ocean Parkway.
The Jones Beach Police Barracks remains closed and without power or heat for the foreseeable future. With no onsite station, calls for service must be answered by patrols outside of their normal area, drastically increasing response time to emergencies.
As highlighted by hurricanes Irene and Sandy, OPRHP places a low emphasis on patron safety by failing to ensure that power to the police station is restored as quickly as possible. Re-opening Jones Beach State Park so early after Sandy also leaves few police resources to respond to potential emergencies at Jones Beach, with many patrols still being stationed at checkpoints and road closures around Long Island.
Alex Goodman, Lindenhurst
Editor's note: The writer represents the Long Island State Park Police Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.