State officials announced the partial reopening of Island Beach State Park Friday, and and members of the press received an inside tour from park employees.
Ray Bukowski, the park manager, said before the tour began that employees worked to remove tons of sand from the park's roads after Superstorm Sandy struck, and also pitched in to help the local South Seaside Park community recover as well.
"One of the first things we did, as a park service, was to recognize that we're a part of this community," said Bukowski. "We still have people who work here who are out of their homes."
Bukowski said the Fisherman's Walkway and several of the park's pavilions will be "very large ticket items," but officials have already met with FEMA as well as the park's insurance carrier.
"I can tell you that we're open today, folks are allowed to drive mobile sport fishing vehicles back on the beach to this point in the island, and we'll be moving south as we clear trash from the beach," said Buskowski.
Bukowski explained that the park will soon be back up to 24 hour operations, and summer programs are expected to be held as usual.
"We made a big effort last year to really have interpretive programming take off again, just as it had in the past," he said. "We intend to have just as much, if not more, than we had last season."
"We'll be back."
In addition to boardwalks, entranceways and damage to pavilions, most of the park's marina was destroyed during Sandy.
New Jersey Parks Director Mark Texel said there was no firm estimate on how much the damage will cost, though repairs are eligible for FEMA reimbursement.