By Lauren Wanko
After months of rebuilding, it all came down to one moment. With a few swings of the hammer, First Lady Mary Pat Christie this morning added the last board to the Seaside Heights boardwalk.
“I really commend all the hard working people that were out here, you know, really using their hard sweat to make it happen for us on June 21. It’s remarkable,” Christie said.
“This is a new beginning for Seaside Heights. Everything is brand new and beautiful,” said Council President Richard Tompkins.
The plank that Mrs. Christie placed in Seaside Heights will eventually be replaced with an engraved piece that reads, “The last board for a new beginning.” It’s one of 25,000 planks that were placed in Seaside Heights.
“It’s good that we’ve come to this point, but we still got a long ways to go. Seaside is not back to its potential, not even close, but it’s getting there,” said Police Chief Thomas Boyd.
Tourists strolled the boardwalk today and lounged on the beach, soaking in the sunshine on this first day of summer, like Pennsylvania resident Scott Benfield.
“I’m amazed at how far they’ve come in the months since Hurricane Sandy. If anything, it doesn’t even look like it had a disaster,” Benfield said.
Sandy hammered communities up and down the coast, but nearly eight months later that destructive storm is what’s luring many tourists back to the shore.
“I was curious to see what it was like after the storm cause everyone’s like restore the shore,” said Pennsylvania resident Madison Clapper. When asked if she would come back, she said, “Yeah. Hell yeah!”
“We came and helped after the storm,” said Clinton resident Chris Rochelle. “We helped clean up the highway and we felt really bad seeing all the devastation and we wanted to come down especially because of the storm.”
“People grew up here,” said Seaside Park resident Michelle Dougherty. “They’re not gonna stop now. People are gonna continue to come back to the place they grew up even if it doesn’t look the same.”
That’s exactly what boardwalk business owners are hoping for, especially after this season’s lackluster start.
“Normally at this time of year, we’d be doing double the business and unfortunately at this point we’re really hurting,” said Sun King owner Brett Kinstler.
Kinstler blames the superstorm and the recent wet weather. Twisted Fish owner Robin Woodfield agrees.
“Well we’ve lost a good third of our season at this point. Hopefully any rain we get from here on out will be between midnight and 5 o’clock in the morning and all the days will be sunny and nice,” Woodfield said.
So what do shore business owners need for a good summer?
“Customers,” said Kinstler. “We need more customers, we need people to realize that the beach is open and we’re ready for business.”
It’s a message business owners and officials in shore communities up and down the coast hope tourists hear loud and clear.