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Sagamore Hill boardwalk damaged by Sandy reopens

Erik Witzke, Chief of Maintenance at Sagamore Hill

Erik Witzke, Chief of Maintenance at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site on the new Eel Creek Boardwalk. The boardwalk, which provides access to Sagamore Hill's beach and salt marsh, was irreparably damaged during Superstorm Sandy. (Jan. 6, 2014) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site's Eel Creek Boardwalk, which has been closed since September to repair damage caused by superstorm Sandy, has been reopened to the public.

Work on the 366-foot-long boardwalk began in September after it was damaged in the October 2012 storm. Reconstruction had been postponed due to a lumber shortage.

The boardwalk has been redesigned to use more sustainable materials and also to be more weather-resistant, officials said. The decking has been constructed using composite recycled material, and the frame is built with pressure-treated wood. The boardwalk is now 1 foot longer and wider. With the new construction, the boardwalk is predicted to last at least 50 years, said Eric Witzke, the site's chief of maintenance.

"Mother Nature can do what it wants; however, it is built with stronger and better materials," Witzke said.

The local contractor, Chesterfield Associates, of Westhampton Beach, was awarded a $199,000 contract by the National Park Service for the work. The money was part of $398 million in federal aid to Long Island to help with recovery from the superstorm.

With Monday's reopening, visitors can once again go down to Sagamore Hill's beach and salt marsh, in addition to the beach that Theodore Roosevelt and his family used. Visitors can also use the nature trail, which was also closed during the construction.

The boardwalk connects to the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can see herons, belted kingfishers, osprey, horseshoe crabs, daggerblade grass shrimp and more.

While there will not be any special event to commemorate the rebuilt boardwalk, the reopening has excited the community, according to Witzke.

"They love it," he said. "People walk down every day. It's their daily exercise. They couldn't wait for the reopening."

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