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Jones Beach, other state parks plan summer improvements

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation's Scott Fish, Wayne Horsley and Hank Leggio discuss the progress of the Jones Beach State Park revitalization program on May 15, 2015 in Wantagh. Credit: Heather Walsh

Visitors to Jones Beach and other Long Island state parks will benefit from multimillion-dollar upgrades this spring and summer, ranging from bathroom overhauls to historic preservation.

A nearly $3 million renovation of the East Bathhouse at Jones Beach's Field 6, prized for its short walk to the beach, will be ready for the Memorial Day weekend, officials said.

All of the plumbing and other systems were completely redone, with the bathrooms featuring buttercup-yellow walls and sea-green countertops.

By reconfiguring the women's bathroom, the capacity grew -- which should translate to shorter lines during peak beach season. Five unisex bathrooms were added for parents with young children, or people with disabilities.

The upgrades aim to marry the park's original 1929 grandeur with features that appeal to today's park-goers, said Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional director for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

A more spacious East Bathhouse dining area, with raised ceilings and no interior walls, will open sometime this summer with both diner-like fare and healthier options, he said.

Horsley didn't provide a menu but said, "It'll be much more than French fries and hamburgers."

Work will also finish this summer on a $2.7 million restoration of the West Bathhouse. Removing the ocean-facing wall on the first floor will create a brighter and more welcoming area. The second floor will become a catering hall capable of hosting 130 guests.

A bride might avail herself of Robert Moses' ocean-facing summer office, with a balcony and private bathroom, for last-minute preparations. Her guests could enjoy cocktails on the decks.

Two exterior fountains at Jones Beach -- shut down for longer than anyone can recall -- will reopen this season, possibly with colorful LED lights. "We want a little bit of the 'wow' factor," Horsley said.

Original mosaics of shells, sea horses, and the like, some located by the Central Mall, have been repaired. New signage and lighting will mirror their original appearance.

In the works is an $18 million East Mall plan to add a food marketplace by spring 2016 and two playgrounds by that summer.

For a fee, visitors will be able to try zip lines, a rope obstacle course or, perhaps, climbing walls. An approximately 2,000-square-foot water-spray park, which will shoot plumes of water into the air and onto children, will be free.

"They'll be different activities; they're still working it out," said Scott Fish, chief engineer for the agency's Long Island region.

The improvements are part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to invest $900 million in state parks by 2020.

This fall, Robert Moses State Park is slated to become the nation's first state park to generate all the electricity it uses thanks to a planned solar energy system.

New bathrooms and showers will greet summer visitors at Hither Hills State Park and Wildwood State Park. A bathhouse remodel at Orient Beach State Park also is expected to be completed, officials said.

A $5.5 million overhaul of Sunken Meadow's main bathhouse has begun, with the work to continue through 2016. This summer, a new playground will be unveiled at the park.

At Bethpage State Park, $2.6 million will be spent on replacing the clubhouse's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

On July 9, Planting Fields Arboretum State Park in Oyster Bay will open a "sensory" garden with herbaceous plants worthy of sniffing, raised planters that allow people in wheelchairs to get close, and signs in Braille and large print.

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