Nearly three months after Superstorm Sandy swamped Island Beach State Park, sections of the park are now open to the public, free of charge.
“This partial reopening of Island Beach State Park is an important benchmark in the state’s recovery from Sandy,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “While there is still much work to be done, we know that having even partial access to the park is important to residents and visitors and we are thrilled to welcome them back.”
Ocean Bathing Area 1 - four miles south of the park entrance - is now open for walking, four-wheel drive access and sport fishing.
Four-wheel drive vehicles with park-issued permits can enter the beach at Ocean Bathing Area 1 or at Gillikin’s Road, which is 1.2 miles north of Ocean Bathing Area 1. Horseback riding is not permitted at this time.
All points south of Ocean Bathing Area 1 – including Ocean Bathing Area 2, the Forked River Interpretive Center, the nature center, and access points to Sedge Island – will reopen as cleanup and restoration work progresses.
“I am proud of the hard work undertaken by our staff, volunteers and contractors who have been getting the job done despite very challenging conditions that included lack of utilities, extensive damage to park infrastructure and road closures,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin.
Restrooms at both bathing beaches have been winterized and are closed. But portable toilets are available at the Ocean Bathing Area 1's parking lot.
Four-wheel drive vehicle owners can inflate their tires after driving on the beach at the air stations in the parking lot of the park administration office, according to the DEP.
Island Beach State Park was badly damaged when Sandy hit New Jersey on Oct. 29. Electric and gas service were lost, dunes were breached in a number of beach access paths and sand was as high as seven feet along portions of the Shore Road.
Sandy slammed into boardwalks and lifeguard towers at the park’s two main bathing areas, leaving them either severely damaged or destroyed. Fisherman’s Walkway boardwalk at the A-7 access point was destroyed. The storm also caused wind or water damage to several buildings, as well as the loss of signs and fencing.
The gatehouse and maintenance buildings at the northern section of the park were flooded and structurally damaged. The Barnegat Inlet jetty at the southern tip of the park was also compromised, according to the DE.
Island Beach State Park Manager Ray Bukowski said recently that he and his staff were working seven days a week to repair the damage. Thanks to volunteer groups and other partnerships, some beach areas were restored.
“Just as our active and reliable partnerships are important to us during good times, they are even more important in times of need,” Bukowski said.
“A great deal of credit has to go to our partners who care so much for this special place, including Friends of Island Beach State Park, the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association, Clean Ocean Action, the Surfrider Foundation and Waste Management of New Jersey," he said.