By Lauren Wanko
“We’re back! Belmar boardwalk is back and summer will be back in New Jersey,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
It’s official. Belmar’s boardwalk is open. This morning, Gov. Christie joined an eager crowd of nearly 2,000 for the ribbon cutting.
“In only seven months, what people love about the Jersey Shore is back. Things are gonna be different, but the experience of coming here, the great memories they made in the past they’ll be able to do that all over again,” said Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty.
About 900 school children filled the beach as if it were already a summer day.
“Many of our families and our staff families that were affected by the storm .. so it’s of particular interest of ours for the shore to come back,” said LADACIN Network Executive Director Patti Carlesimo.
“I’m very proud, very proud of Belmar for being able to finish this on schedule,” said Belmar resident Alice Marques.
“We shall overcome. We’re survivors. That’s what America is all about,” said June Semon of Belmar.
The boardwalk project cost about $8 million. FEMA will pick up 75 percent of the cost with the borough covering the rest. So far nearly $700,000 has already been raised through the borough’s Buy a Board Campaign. That money will go straight to Belmar’s cost of the rebuild.
Business owners will operate in trailers this year. Belmar hopes the four pavilions will be rebuilt by next Memorial Day. Jakes Crab Shack owner Chris Brandl is grateful his business is back on the boardwalk.
“It means so much to me as an owner or a businessman in this town that we’re here, we’re ready. and its so important .. first impression is everything,” Brandl said.
Even as New Jersey’s politicians celebrated in Belmar, they empathized with Oklahoma. Christie said he won’t play politics with disaster recovery.
“I would urge all the members of the congressional delegation of New Jersey to support swift and immediate aid in whatever amount is deemed necessary for the people of Oklahoma. This is not a time for political retribution,” Christie said.
“I think this is more then a ribbon cutting. It’s a celebration of all of us working together to rebuild and restore what we had and what we love as a community,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
“I think for the state it sends a great message that we’ve said from the beginning that we’re a very resilient state. More importantly, it’s gonna send a message to the country that says you know what? New Jersey is open,” said Assemblyman David Rible.
As for Christie’s Jersey Shore visits, his travel schedule remains jammed packed.
“Damn boardwalks are opening all over New Jersey and I’m gonna try to be at every one of them,” Christie said.
And with Memorial Day weekend quickly approaching, business owners and officials hope tourists will follow along.