By Lauren Wanko
With each and every day, Belmar’s new boardwalk is pieced together plank by plank. One hundred thousand square feet of decking is already in place. That’s more than half the boardwalk. Local officials are confident the project will wrap up by April 30.
“After that we’re going to have a few weeks where we gotta finish off some parts of the boardwalk, put in the bathrooms, put in the concession trailers so that’ll take us just about to Memorial Day weekend,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
Fifty-two contractors work 10-hour days, six days a week, rain or shine. Mother Nature has become their greatest challenge.
“It’s been pretty brutal actually,” Epic Inc. General Manager Rob Bye said. “We worked through two nor’easters, getting sand blasted every day, 10-degree weather. These guys really stuck it out and they got it done.”
Sandy destroyed Belmar’s entire 1.3-mile stretch of boardwalk. Local Matthew Barrett lives across the street from the ocean and watches as contractors bring back what he calls a sense of normalcy.
“Just the boardwalk itself it would be great to see it completed and seeing people walking their dogs or just in general going up and down Ocean Avenue, because you don’t see the traffic like you had seen for quite a while now,” said Barrett.
Residents aren’t the only folks in town who are relieved construction on Belmar’s new boardwalk is well underway. There are about 140 businesses in this seaside community who depend on a summer tourism season.
Like Taylor Hardware. Manager Steven Fry says the boardwalk is a necessity.
“Having that boardwalk up and running is absolutely what we need,” he said. “We depend on the boardwalk, we depend on the local economy to keep us going and summer is a huge part of our business as a whole.”
“It’s something that’s beyond just an economical importance, it’s also a very emotional attachment for people who live here but also people who come here,” said Doherty.
And beach badge sales prove people are coming back to Belmar this summer. Sales are up 40 percent from the same time last year.
“It’s amazing to think that we don’t have a real beach. Our boardwalk is still being reconstructed but people want to be a part of this story,” said Doherty.