New Jersey's Island Beach park ready to welcome holiday visitors
With most of the damage from Superstorm Sandy repaired, one of New Jersey's most popular parks is ready for the Independence Day holiday.
All the major visitor areas at Island Beach State Park, including renovated boardwalks and bathhouses, have reopened.
It's important to have recreation available for residents in nearby towns that were hard hit by Sandy, said park manager Ray Bukowski.
"The local communities are still suffering. There are a lot of people who are still displaced. This doesn't overshadow that. This just allows people the opportunity to recreate when they can," he said. "It also makes sure that we can have our facility open to help drive the local economy and the folks who depend upon the tourism.'
It cost more than half a million dollars to restore the park, according to state Park Service director Mark Texel. New Jersey is hoping to recoup 90 percent of that from FEMA.
Revenue the park collects from fees charged to visitors covers the operating costs, he said.
"So this park is sustainable and because its sustainable it helps us use our budget. It lets us then redeploy those resources elsewhere," Texel said. "So for us, it was critical that we had Island Beach almost back to full capacity in them for this season."
Visitors can look forward to enhanced educational nature programs at the park are being enhanced.
"We're going to teach folks how to clam and crab and the ecology around the shellfish and Barnegat Bay in general," Bukowski said. "So that we not only teach people what the resources are out there but grow to be constituents for the bay so that we can support the Barnegat Bay restoration efforts."