Construction crews rebuild the portion of boardwalk in Seaside Park destroyed by fire last September. / Tom Spader, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
SEASIDE PARK, N.J. -- Memorial Day proved too ambitious of a deadline for the completion of a key section of boardwalk on the Jersey Shore that was ravaged by a massive fire eight months ago.
Construction on Funtown Pier Associates' portion of the boardwalk in Seaside Park has been limited to the immediate area of surrounding the Sawmill Cafe, which along with a neighboring arcade was the only building in the vicinity to survive the fire. Recently joists were being fastened to support the planks on the economically and culturally important wooden thoroughfare.
A couple blocks to the north in Seaside Heights, where another privately owned strip of boardwalk is being rebuilt after the September fire, is a glimpse at the future. There, the boardwalk is taking its familiar form as a crew lays decking diagonally to create the walkway.
Boardwalk regular Lou Cappetta watched the action from behind a temporary chain-link fence Wednesday morning.
"You're always disappointed to miss a holiday weekend," Cappetta, of Toms River, said when asked about missing the unofficial start of summer, "but we're going to have the whole summer."
The fire, which was ignited by wiring damaged in Superstorm Sandy, swept through more than four blocks of boardwalk on Sept. 12. About 60 businesses were destroyed or damaged in the two towns.
Progress since then is undeniable but not as fast as some would hope.
On April 29, the Seaside Park Planning Board approved Funtown's designs and took the extraordinary step of expediting the permitting process. That allowed Funtown to apply for a construction permit as soon as the next day.
Funtown project manager D.J. D'Onofrio said after the planning meeting that a Memorial Day opening was his goal.
Seaside Park Borough Administrator Bob Martucci said this week that he is "very hopeful" that work on the boardwalk would be done by the end of June, or at least the construction around the Sawmill Cafe would be wrapped in time for that restaurant's reopening on June 15.
The Sawmill did not respond to requests for comment.
The Sawmill likely will remain by its lonesome for the start of the summer tourism season. Funtown Pier, the amusement park that was the biggest draw and biggest taxpayer in Seaside Park, was destroyed.
Seaside Park plans to use a nearby parking lot to host carnival rides and drive-in movies and other one-off measures to bring people to the area.
Copyright 2015 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Fire-damaged Jersey boardwalk not ready to reopen