Repairing superstorm Sandy's damage at Long Island's state parks will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, including $50 million just to rebuild the mangled Jones Beach boardwalk, officials estimate.
"It's sobering. It's devastating," Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said after spending much of Thursday touring Jones Beach and other sites with regional park officials. "The costs are huge," she said, but her agency will apply for disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"Absolutely Jones Beach will be open for the summer," despite the worst damage in at least three decades, Harvey said. But patrons may only have access to parking fields on the western end of the park where the beaches had more protection from dunes against the 21-foot waves. "We're going to rebuild," she said. "It is Jones Beach."
Ronald Foley, state parks regional director, said the boardwalk was heavily damaged for its entire length.
"It has a roller-coaster effect because in some places the pilings have been pulled up from the bottom and other places they've sunk," he said. "Some buildings were damaged. The theater was severely flooded. We think the elevation of the beach has dropped, which makes all the structures more susceptible to damage from succeeding storms," he said.
Foley also said two fishing piers at Field 10 were damaged, as was the boat basin.
A walk down the boardwalk is a surreal experience with concrete benches overturned and scattered, aluminum railings torn out and rental umbrellas poking out of the sand and large puddles on the beach. The lifeguard shack and umbrella concession building were swept off the beach by the Central Mall and deposited hundreds of yards to the west with the roof of the lifeguard shack perched on the boardwalk.
About 40 employees were at work Thursday for the first day of cleanup at the second most visited state park after Niagara Falls with 6 million annual visitors.
Foley said it will take several weeks of engineering analysis to evaluate the damage costs at Jones Beach and other parks.
The two outer lanes at the Robert Moses State Park traffic circle, he said, and some of the access road heading east collapsed onto the beach, where the dunes were stripped away and the elevation of the sand reduced about 10 feet from Field 5 almost to Field 3.
Downed trees were the problem at Planting Fields Arboretum.
"Planting Fields has about 300 trees down," Foley said. "The sad part of that is that about 100 of them are part of the collection of specimen trees." One tree fell on the roof of the community greenhouse.
"Sunken Meadow [State Park], ironically, has the best beach it's ever had," Foley said. "Lots of sand was deposited, but 350 trees are down."
Damage to state parks on Long Island
Jones Beach: Entire boardwalk severely damaged, theater and other buildings flooded, fishing piers and boat basin damaged.
Robert Moses: Two outer lanes at the Robert Moses traffic circle and some of the access road heading east collapsed onto beach, where the dunes were stripped away and elevation of the sand reduced about 10 feet from Field 5 almost to Field 3.
Orient Point: Access road severely damaged. Buildings were flooded with 30 inches of storm surge.
Planting Fields: More than 100 specimen trees from the arboretum collection destroyed.
Captree: Southeast corner of parking lot collapsed.
Wildwood: Erosion cut beach height by 8 feet and cut into the bluffs.
Camp Hero: Heavy erosion to bluff