By Lauren Wanko
It’s become a familiar sound along the Jersey Shore. In Seaside Park work is underway to rebuild the privately owned boardwalk, completely destroyed by the September fire. Across the street at Borough Hall, residents like John Welch line up to buy summer beach badges.
“I feel even more excited about this Memorial Day than others because the energy and the people who are locally here are trying tomake it so good,” Welch said.
Officials hope the boardwalk, which connects Seaside Park to Seaside Heights, will be completed by late June. Knowing the boardwalk wouldn’t be in place for the unofficial start of summer, local officials decided to try something new.
Over the holiday weekend, a parking lot will be filled with a horse and buggy and children’s rides, games, live, music and more.
“Anything that brings people out into town is a good thing,” said Belvedere Motel owner Mike Smith.
Local officials hope this weekend’s events will bring more business to merchants in town too. Smith’s already having his best Memorial Day weekend on record, and it hasn’t even started yet.
“Typically we usually don’t fill up for Memorial Day. This year we have three rooms left. It’s really looking good,” Smith said.
Next door in Seaside Heights, construction crews are rebuilding the privately owned portion of the boardwalk damaged by the fire. The borough already rebuilt its section. Shore Amusements’ Eric Faranda is thrilled to finally be back on the boards. He owns and operates six stands, which were wiped out by the fire.
“It feels great. We have a sense of purpose again. We have a place to go to work, which we didn’t have for the last six months,” Faranda said.
Faranda, who just reopened, already lost 25 percent of the season. He’s operating in temporary buildings, much smaller than the originals. Still he’s relieved.
“Just to be here, it’s worth it,” Faranda said.
Locals are also grateful reconstruction work on Route 35 is slowing down for the season.
“The flow of traffic is important,” said Seaside Heights Special Events Coordinator Michael Graichen.
The Department of Transportation spokesperson tells NJTV News this Memorial Day weekend all lanes will be open along Route 35, except for a two-mile stretch between Brick and Toms River. One lane will be open there. This summer, for most of route 35, all the reconstruction work on the highway will be suspended beginning in June. Work will start back up again on Sept. 2. After months of cold and plenty of snow, officials are banking on wintry-weary residents eager for a trip down the shore.
“I really think people are ready. People are going to line up to come to this beach and be happy to forget this winter 2014,” said Seaside Park Administrator Bob Martucci.
But hopefully have a memorable summer 2014.