The Slow, but Triumphant, Return of Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Just in time for the warm weather, I’ve learned some great news from home: Some portions of my beloved Sandy Hook, New Jersey beach and its recreation area will be available to the public again! The tireless rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy has paid off enough to merit a reopening ceremony on May 1st, and although I won’t be present for it, I couldn’t be happier.

Both federal employees and local volunteers have been digging out beach centers, parking lots and sand dunes, pumping out flooded buildings, and removing debris from the area. They also worked hard on rebuilding the roads that accessed the beach.

Thanks to these efforts — more efforts than the deteriorated historic buildings have received in years— the area is slowly returning to its old, idyllic look. The attention-grabbing lighthouse remains in good condition, and three beaches so far — Beach B, Gunnison, and North—will be open to the public.

The Marine Academy of Science and Technology, which had to switch locations after their campus at Fort Hancock flooded, will be able to hold their graduation ceremony there. The search for scattered unexploded artillery from Fort Hancock led to one discovery, which has since been removed.

There is still a ton of work to be done, and these openings are only a tentative start to a full recovery. Reports of most buildings haven’t delved much deeper than confirming that all water has been pumped out. The sewage systems are still suffering, so beachgoers will have to deal with Porta-Potties, and other services —such as electric and water systems — are up, but still undergoing serious work. Some visitors’ centers are still closed as well.

Despite the toil that still lies ahead of us, it’s inspiring to see how far we’ve come. Just a few months ago, the battle-weathered porches in Officers’ Row suffered their first defeat because of the hurricane. I was engrossed with the thought of them recovering and being able to withstand the pressure of curious feet once more. While browsing the pictures of our slow restoration, I found the beginnings of what I knew would happen all along.