Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer travel season, and it's particularly important for the resort communities along the Jersey Shore still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
In the popular tourist spot Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., it has taken seven months and more than $1 million to make repairs along Jenkinson's Boardwalk.
After repairing the flooded aquarium, rebuilding the miniature golf courses and replacing the damaged planks, contractors were still busy doing final repairs in anticipation of the holiday weekend. But the occasional sounds of saws and hammers didn't seem to deter the steady stream of visitors who have already started to arrive.
Toby Wolf, Jenkinson's marketing director, says she has been pleasantly surprised by how great the boardwalk looks. "As far as the restaurants and the boardwalks and the attractions, we really made sure that we're ready to go," she says.
Open For Business
The state plans to spend $25 million of federal recovery money on an ad campaign to lure people back to the Jersey Shore. At stake are tens of thousands of seasonal jobs and a $19 billion industry that accounts for more than half of New Jersey's total tourism revenue.
Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson says the city could not afford to wait for the insurance and federal aid money to arrive, so it has borrowed $10 million to repair the waterfront in hopes of being reimbursed at a later date.
"We're a mom and pop business community," Johnson says. "We're not talking about Macy's and Targets and Wal-Marts here. We're talking about people that cashed in their savings, mortgages, pension plans to open up their businesses. So being open this summer, this is our bread-and-butter season. We knew that we needed to start with ourselves and get this up and running."
Memorial Day A First Step
In Belmar, crews raced to finish pouring concrete just in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly rebuilt boardwalk. Tourists like Nada Benkabbou and her friends barely seemed to notice the construction taking place around them. "This is like the favorite place to go, and I just thought I'd come visit, to see how it's doing," Benkabbou says.
In a recent AAA survey, nearly 80 percent of New Jersey and Philadelphia-area residents said that Sandy has not affected their summer travel plans, and most plan to spend the same amount of time at the Jersey Shore as in previous years. Business owners from Sea Bright to Cape May are hoping that a strong turnout this holiday weekend signals the first step in helping them get back on their feet.