One of my fondest memories growing up in Long Beach, New York was the 2 mile boardwalk along the beach front. The boardwalk was built in 1914 and about 50 some odd years later, my toddler self rode his little red tricycle over the wooden planks. It always annoyed me that my mother wouldn’t let me ride in the center lane which was designated for bicycles (I get it now). Later when my dad took off the training wheels, the first place I rode my bicycle, was on the boardwalk.
When walking through Long Beach, I can show you all the places that I lived, but the boardwalk and beach have and always will be my spiritual home.
Throughout my life, as if it were an instinct, I have returned to that boardwalk and beach time and time again. During those visits I usually have my father by my side. We have built a lifetime of good memories there during all season and times of the day and night.
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and with it, my beloved boardwalk. I was lucky enough to make it back to Long Beach three times this year and I wanted to share the impressions from each trip.
I was in town for a race in the City, but I had to make a run home to survey the damage. At this point, the Long Beach was still digging itself out after the disaster. The beach was still trashed and the cleanup was being performed with heavy equipment. Given that so many residents of Long Beach were still trying to get their lives and homes back to normal, I really can’t fault the city council for not prioritizing the beach cleanup during the winter months.
The image above is from a ramp that lead from the street to the boardwalk. It was the ramp that I walked my bike up on the day the training wheels came off. Only a few of the planks remained. Wood from the boardwalk was scattered all over the beach. I pocketed a six inch wooden scrap of my former boardwalk and brought it home with me.
I next visited Long Beach in May. I had about 8 hours in between flights. There was a huge beach cleanup event scheduled during the time I was in the Long Beach and I was very very tempted to invest a few hours in helping with the cleanup effort. Instead, I just walked on the beach and visited with friends who were recovering from the storm. Then as usaul, I dashed for a flight.
The beach was cleaner. Most of the big debris was gone, but a great deal of little detailed pickup work remained. I saw the cleanup teams staging during my visit and it was hard not to go and do my part. Ten years ago, I would have chipped in without a second thought, unfortunately, beach cleanup on that visit was not going to be the highest and best use of my borrowed time that day.
I visited again on the second day of fall to find the boardwalk back in place and the beach immaculate. Economically, Long Beach had to have the boardwalk ready for summer. New York State put about $9Million in to restore the boardwalk and FEMA kicked in the balance of the $42Million.
The wood of the boardwalk doesn’t look the same as it used to. Apparently the new sustainable hardwoods should last 50 more years. I was still happy to see the boardwalk back. I was also happy to be able to share that first visit to the new boardwalk with my father and my daughter. It was nice to have this home restored.