SEA GIRT, N.J. - Sea Girt is joining the parade of Jersey shore towns who are rebuilding boardwalks destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
The Monmouth County beach town that once was home to New York Giants and Jets coach Bill Parcells plans to start work next week on the first phase of a boardwalk reconstruction. Mayor Ken Farrell said the work could cost between $1.65 million and $1.75 million.
Residents have clearly missed being able to walk on the boardwalk.
"I put on 10 pounds since it's been gone," said resident Bill O'Brien. "It's part of the reason people come here."
A local joggers' club recently sent a check for $500 to borough hall to help pay for a new boardwalk.
"It's the heart and soul of this town," added resident Nancy Nolan.
The borough council awarded a $30,000 contract Wednesday night to remove the remnants of the old boardwalk that was splintered, twisted and shattered by the Oct. 29 storm.
The new boardwalk, like the old one, will be made of synthetic planks, with sturdy tie-down straps anchoring them to the foundation.
The first phase of the work, covering part of the 3/4-mile long walkway, should be done by May 6, with the remainder finished by June 23.
All told, Sea Girt expects to have spent about $2.5 million on cleanup and rebuilding costs from the storm. That included removing downed trees, overtime pay for police and public works crews, and hiring a contractor to hurriedly rebuild dunes before a nor'easter hit a week later.
Sea Girt's work is the latest in a growing number of boardwalk reconstruction projects springing to life at the Jersey shore less than four months before the start of the summer tourism season. Higher-profile boardwalks like Seaside Heights and Belmar have started rebuilding already; Belmar's construction crew has driven support pilings deep into the sand on over half of its 1.3-mile beach, spurred no doubt by the possibility of a $100,000 bonus if they finish the job early.
Sea Girt falls into a different category of lower-key beach towns whose boardwalks are largely non-commercial, including its neighbour to the north, Spring Lake. That community is rebuilding its boardwalk for the second time in about a year and a half; Tropical Storm Irene destroyed more than half of it in 2011.
Sea Girt calls its boardwalk project "Operation Comeback," and has already spent nearly $400,000 on preliminary work. Bids for the second phase of the work are due on Feb. 7, and a contract should be awarded on Feb. 13.
Borough Engineer Peter Avakian said the walkway will incorporate stricter construction standards adopted after the Dec. 1992 nor'easter that ruined boardwalks up and down the Jersey shore. While he could not guarantee the new boardwalk would survive another storm as strong as Sandy, he said it should be able to weather a strong nor'easter — a common occurrence at the Jersey shore — in good shape.
Before the storm, there were 133 benches on the boardwalk, virtually all of which were wiped out by the storm. Work crews were able to salvage the concrete bases of 20 of them, which will be rebuilt and placed on the new boardwalk.
The new boardwalk also will feature a mesh walkway mat that will enable beach wheelchairs to access the sand.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC