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Jones Beach State Park celebrates 90th birthday with 50-cent admission

The sun rises over Jones Beach on Saturday.

The sun rises over Jones Beach on Saturday. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Prepare to toast Long Island’s newest and much beloved nonagenarian on Aug. 4.

That is when Jones Beach State Park celebrates its 90th birthday and when that term for those lucky enough to reach nine decades will apply.

Cupcakes, 9,990 in total, a 4-by-8-foot cake, crowned with a replica of the park’s 231-foot-high water tower with a sea horse on either side, a 50-cent admission — matching the initial weekend rate — jugglers, magicians, an inflatable slide and the like are among the attractions planned, according to George Gorman, regional director, Long Island, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Sue Giuliani, the former Jones Beach director who returns during summer to help with events.

Just a decade or so ago there was less to celebrate.

Master builder Robert Moses, who gave the public an Art Deco masterpiece with buildings and gardens modeled after European palaces — and matched the concerts and games cruise lines offered the well-to-do — might have been appalled.

Years of underfunding — which worsened during the 2007 to 2009 Great Recession — led to the neglect of many state parks. At Wantagh’s Jones Beach, visitors decried litter, abysmal restrooms and showers, and concessions with overpriced and poor quality food. No longer safe, the Boardwalk Café was closed in 2004.

Now, Jones Beach and the state’s other 200-plus parks are being transformed under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to invest $1 billion of public and private funds by 2020.

“It’s a godsend,” said Gorman, noting visitors had grown frustrated as the parks deteriorated.

“We are doing so much to improve Jones Beach,” from the easternmost parking lot to the West End.

The overhaul of Jones Beach, initially pegged at $65 million, recently grew to $100 million.

Completed renovations include: the West Bathhouse and its pool, the water tower, concessions, bathrooms, including those at Field 6, the Marine Dining Room, and the historic mosaics, tiles and lights. The Boardwalk Café reopened last summer in a new building.

Play areas have been upgraded with new games, including pickle ball and cornhole, a splash pad, an adventure park with a zip line, and an extension of the bike path to the park’s undeveloped area in the west. New “monument” signs true to the designs Moses selected greet visitors. The landscaping has been restored, and grasses planted to anchor the sand.

More projects are in the works, from redone volleyball courts and the miniature golf course and a redesigned entrance from the Meadowbrook, now that the toll plazas — no longer needed because parking fees are collected at the fields — have been removed.

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