Gilgo Beach State Park on Thursday.

Gilgo Beach State Park on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

Even a foggy, dreary March morning is a good day to pull the motor home onto the sands of Gilgo Beach State Park in Babylon Town for some fishing, Cooky Rondinella says.

Now thanks to a recently completed project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there will be more room for four-wheel vehicles and their drivers looking to catch either some striped bass or a wave at the Ocean Parkway beach.

It’s welcome news for Rondinella, the president of the off-roading group Long Island Beach Buggy Association, and his fellow beach driving enthusiasts.

“We spend, sometimes, more time in a year here on the beach than we do at home,” said Rondinella, a retired ornamental sheet metal worker who lives in Herricks. “They have kaffeeklatsches. They play cards. They go fishing. They go surfing.”

The work is part of the $1.7 billion coastal storm risk management project known as FIMP (Fire Island to Montauk Point) intended to reduce flood risk along 83 miles of shoreline eroded by decades of storms.

The project is funded by the federal government through a law passed in December 2020 and previously earmarked by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 after Superstorm Sandy. The Gilgo Beach portion cost $23.5 million and was completed by the Houston, Texas-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC., according to the Army Corps.

The Gilgo project called for the dredging of Fire Island Inlet, which is periodically required to maintain the channel, and placing 800,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach.

The beachfront at Gilgo State Park in Babylon has been closed for a year because of erosion.  It’s open again after a major sand replenishment project. Newsday’s Shari Einhorn reports.  Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

That is enough sand to fill 240 Olympic-size swimming pools, said state parks commissioner Erik Kulleseid, who was there on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. He said the work took about three months to complete.

Before the sand replenishment project, the state Parks Department removed 18 million pounds of concrete at the entrance where a 1920s-era U.S. Coast Guard station once stood. Wood pilings were also cut at the surface and removed through work completed in-house by Parks Department staffers.

The structures previously operated like jetties and disrupted the natural east to west flow of sand along Long Island’s South Shore. There was hardly any sand there at all last autumn, Kulleseid said. 

"By taking the pilings down we created a beach that will be much more resilient and last much better," he said.

Gilgo Beach State Park is a four-wheel-drive vehicle beach only open to those with a surf-fishing or surf access permit. Seasonal permit sales, which typically end March 31, have been extended until April 7.

“This is one of the unique pieces in our Long Island portfolio that allows people to get on the beach in their vehicles, fish and surf,” Kulleseid said. "And it's just fantastic to be reopening again."

With Kendall Rodriguez

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