With temperatures expected to climb toward summer-like degrees today and tomorrow, there is some very good news about the town’s boardwalk and access to Town Neck Beach: both are expected to be reopened this afternoon.
“Ninety-five percent of the work to repair the flat part of the boardwalk has been completed and the building inspector was comfortable with issuing a temporary permit to reopen the structure while we wait for some hardware to be delivered,” Assistant Town Manager Douglas A. Lapp said.
The work to repair this section of the structure included repairing and replacing pilings, cross bracings, piling caps, stringers, and some decking. “Wherever we could keep and reuse the engraved planks, we did so,” Mr. Lapp said.
Large cement barriers were expected to be removed from the Town Neck parking lot and portable bathrooms brought in by this afternoon, officially reopening the area to the public.
Although the stairs leading from the boardwalk down to the beach remain closed to the public, they are expected to be repaired and reopen within the next two weeks.
“The entire project will be completed well before the Fourth of July. In fact, the entire structure, including the stairs, will be reopening before school ends on June 26,” Mr. Lapp said.
The assistant town manager said that the engineering department along with Building Inspector Paul D. Spiro and a contractor have been working diligently to find a way to repair the stairway that leads down to the beach.
“They came up with a plan this week where they will be pulling out the stairs that are on the beach side and placing them further back, closer to the dunes. This work is a little more complicated and we will be bringing in a crane and mini-excavator to embed some of the stairs into the sand.
Until the stairs are repaired, Mr. Lapp said employees from the department of natural resources will use stakes and tape to mark off a path that people can use to access the beach.
“We are trying to minimize any further damage to the dunes,” he said.
Mr. Lapp made the decision to reopen the boardwalk this week after touring the structure on Tuesday afternoon. Although he was pleased with the work that has been done to repair the flat walkway portion of the structure, he was very discouraged by the malicious destruction that recently occurred there.
“The boardwalk had been barricaded with thick plywood that was held in place with special screws. These types of screws require a special tool to remove them. Somebody removed the screws and took down the plywood,” he said.
With the barricade gone, the structure was filled on Tuesday afternoon with a crowd of people walking on it.
“I’m not sure exactly when the screws and plywood were removed, but whoever did it, knew what they were doing and put some time and effort into it,” Mr. Lapp said. “I was very discouraged to see that.”
Initially, he and other town officials were going to hold off opening the boardwalk until all the repair work was done to the structure. However, after reassessing the safety of the structure now that the bulk of the repairs have been completed and after getting the okay from the building inspector for a temporary permit, Mr. Lapp went ahead and made the decision to open it now.
“I’m trying to be responsible and realistic and I am trying to minimize the problems that we have there. The nails we have in place securing the structure are safe enough to open it temporarily until we get some specialized hardware installed. We would not have reopened the boardwalk if the building inspector did not believe that it was safe for public use,” he said.
The cost for the entire fix is $32,500. Mr. Lapp said that expense is being covered from three sources.
“We used every last penny that was in the boardwalk fund from money collected from the sale of planks. We used some of the reimbursement money we received from the federal government for costs incurred during Hurricane Irene and the rest of the money, $3,600, is coming from the department of public works account,” Mr. Lapp said.
The boardwalk and the dunes incurred significant damage during the blizzard that hit the area in February, which was followed by another storm in March. Mr. Lapp said the town is still aggressively pursuing reimbursement funds from the federal government for losses incurred during the February storm.