Gilgo State Park will not open as usual on April 1 because storms this winter washed away too much sand, and when surfers and fishermen might be allowed to return is not yet known, officials said.
“We are hoping that we see the natural replenishment of sand within the spring and early summer, and at that time we will again evaluate the beachfront conditions,” said George Gorman, Long Island deputy regional director, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The sand that nor’easters sweep away typically flows west, and some of it returns normally in the next two seasons.
That would be a boon for the approximately 1,000 surfers and 16,000 fishermen who can use the park if they have four-wheel drive vehicles and obtain state permits.
Until the sand comes back, they will have to enjoy its state park competitors: Democrat Point and Sore Thumb at Robert Moses, Hither Hills, Montauk and Napeaque.
Almost of all the several thousand cubic yards of sand the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers poured at Gilgo in 2013 to 2014 for superstorm Sandy repairs was lost this winter - to storms that were much less severe.
“All of this used to be under sand,” said Gorman, gesturing to the piers and crumbling foundation of the former Coast Guard station that now lie five or six feet feet below the new bluff the ocean carved.
About a hundred feet out, waves break on a new sand bar - the replenished beach used to stretch out about that far, according to Gorman and Tom Ciolfi, 45, of Oakdale, who had come to surf despite the biting winter wind.
“We kind of knew it was going to get up and go away; you know, Mother Nature always has the last word,” Ciolfi said.
Still, the rapidity with which the sand disappeared from Gilgo and a few other beaches, alarmed Cooky Rondinella, president of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association.
At Gilgo, “There were these big sand bars out there in the late 1990s to the middle of the 2000s,” he recalled.
In his 35 years of surf-fishing, he observed the ocean replace the sand it took in winter - without intervention, he said.
While he wants the beaches preserved, some new factor seems to have disrupted the seasonal flow of sand, he said, conjecturing that the costly replenishment projects might be the culprit.
“I think personally the way the dredging was handled, it may have caused the problem,” Rondinella said.