Officials: Jersey Shore is Ready for Labor Day
Mayors, legislators announce the beaches are ready after Hurricane Irene
A collection of mayors and council members from coastal municipalities along with 11th District Assemblyman Dave Rible and Congressman Frank Pallone gathered at the Belmar Boardwalk on Friday afternoon to announce that the beaches are open and that the Jersey Shore is ready for Labor Day Weekend.
A week earlier, many of the same leaders met on the Belmar boardwalk to emphasize the dangers of Hurricane Irene as it approached New Jersey and to urge people to stay away. Governor Chris Christie, speaking from Trenton last week, even went so far as to tell residents to "get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park."
In the wake of the storm, local municipalities have worked double-time to prepare themselves for Labor Day Weekend, the symbolic end of the summer tourist season.
"Our beaches are back together, our boardwalks are in shape," Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said in kicking off the press event, which received wide coverage from print and broadcast media throughout the area.
Doherty also announced that Belmar would suspend pay parking throughout the borough for the holiday weekend.
Doherty was joined by his fellow mayors Ed Johnson of Asbury Park, Kevin McMillan of Neptune Township, Julie Schreck or Bradley Beach, Terry Mahon of Avon, Michael Ryan of Lake Como, Jennifer Naughton of Spring Lake, Mark Clemmenson of Sea Girt and George Dempsey of Manasquan as well as a number of council members from those towns.
"We're now under a Godzilla warning," Johnson joked, noting that after an earthquake and a hurricane in a week, "it's time for a holiday."
McMillan echoed those sentiments, explaining that after the tireless efforts of officials and residents alike, some rest and relaxation was in order.
"We worked hard, now it's time to play hard," he said.
"Enjoy it while you can," Schreck said. "The summer went by too fast."
In a good-natured jab at Doherty, Mahon noted that Avon would also offer free parking this weekend— as they do every weekend.
"We've gone through a very unique event," Ryan said, noting that the key to the successful recovery efforts have been cooperation among all levels of government.
Naughton explained that Spring Lake would have more than a mile and a half of its beaches open for visitors and free of debris, but the borough's south end, which was hit particularly hard, would remain closed.
Clemmenson took the opportunity to answer a question he has received from many since the storm passed through the area.
"The Parker House is open," he said.
While taking time to praise the efforts of borough employees and emergency volunteers in Manasquan, Dempsey again took aim at First Energy Corporation and their handling of outages in the wake of the storm.
"Our only problem has been Jersey Central (Power & Light)" Dempsey said, noting that as of Friday morning, electricity had yet to be restored to the borough's downtown business district. "Hopefully we'll get it done today."
"They have worked tirelessly, all of them," Rible said of the local officials at the dais, noting the "tremendous effort" that took place to put the Jersey Shore back together after Irene.
Rible also noted one aspect of the area that he feels made all the difference in the storm's aftermath.
"We have an overabundance of volunteers with big hearts," he said.
Rible, who has been in contact with Jersey Central Power & Light throughout the week explained that the company hopes to have the majority of service in the area restored by 11 p.m. Friday, with only small, isolated pockets to be dealt with on a case by case basis.
"I've never seen such great preparation," Pallone said of the collaborative effort to ready the area for the storm.
Pallone noted that "we did lose some sand" along area beaches and explained that the Army Corps of Engineers will be doing an assessment of sand loss along the shore for possible replenishment.
While some critics of beach replenishment feel that sand pumping efforts are a waste of federal dollars, Pallone disagreed.
"We actually save the federal government money," he said, noting the cost to benefit analysis of pumping sand rather than waiting for storms and repairing damaged property and infrastructure.
"It was because the sand was there that we didn't have a lot more damage," he said.
Pallone also explained that representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in Monmouth County on Friday, assessing damage creating by the storm and making determinations as to whether or not the area would be declared a disaster zone.
"I am going to push very strongly for that," Pallone said. "This is crucial for us because we've had a lot of damage."
Should the disaster declaration be made, the door will be opened to municipalities and private property owners to make claims to the federal government towards the cost of the damage incurred by the storm.