Much to the delight of beachgoers and town officials, the long-shuttered Sandwich Boardwalk reopened Thursday, June 14—eight days ahead of schedule.
“When I came down this morning to ride I said ‘Whoa, it’s open,’” said Bruce Rodenhizer, who was walking his silver bike across the newly repaired planks. “I was afraid they were going to keep it closed until they replaced the whole thing.”
Oblivious to the clouds rolling in late Thursday afternoon, two young women sat talking on a particularly wide section of the Boardwalk jutting over the marsh.
“It’s amazing—awesome,” said Sage Coellner, speaking of the Boardwalk’s reopening. “It means it’s finally summer.”
Except for a few new, unweathered planks here and there—and a small middle section that has been completely replaced—the iconic Boardwalk looks like it has looked for decades. Visitors will have no inkling that this winter’s northeasters left the Boardwalk in tatters.
That is because Murphy Specialty of Boston, the company hired to repair the damage, located, cleaned, and reused many of the planks that had been scattered like matchsticks by the winds and tides, said Samuel Jensen, assistant town engineer.
Mr. Jensen had high praise for Murphy Specialty.
“They put in the effort to speed up the work and brought in extra workers to finish the job ahead of schedule,” Mr. Jensen said.
He added that the town’s building inspector checked out the final repairs on the morning of June 14 and gave the go-ahead to reopen.
The Boardwalk had been expected to open on June 22, the last day of school.
For their part, Murphy Specialty praised town officials.
“The town had good drawings, which gave us the ability to fabricate offsite and order materials cut to size,” said Brian Hardiman of Murphy Specialty.
Mr. Hardiman thanked the town engineering, natural resources and building departments and gave a special nod to master timber frame instructor Richard Fryberg, whom the company hired as a consultant.
The contractors began the short-term repairs in late May. Most of the repairs, which were made to the framework beneath the planks, cannot be seen from the Boardwalk.
Besides replacing and bracing storm-loosened boards, the workers drove pilings back into the marsh and reinforced the framework.
At about $76,000, Murphy Specialty was the lowest bidder for the short-term repairs that will now allow visitors to use the Boardwalk this summer. Longer-term repairs, costing about $2 million—and involving a total replacement of the Boardwalk—will be undertaken over the course of the next couple years, town officials have said.
Assistant Town Manager Douglas A. Lapp said recently he could not give an exact time frame for the long-term repairs. Not only must the work be put out to bid, but because the marsh is so environmentally sensitive, it will be necessary to obtain permits from state environmental agencies, he said.
The Boardwalk has been closed since March. Until recently, the beach and beach parking lot had also been closed to the public.
The beach is now open but because erosion remains severe—with steep cliffs carved into the dune and very little walkable beach area when tides are high—town officials are asking the public to use only the repaired stairs at the eastern end of the beach near the Boardwalk and a sand path through the dune near the parking lot entrance.
Natural Resources Director David J. DeConto suggests people check tide charts to ensure a peaceful day at the beach.
While repairs were underway this spring, natural resources department staff restored markers and posted signs to keep people off the remaining dunes and away from the nesting areas of endangered piping plovers.
Mr. DeConto said this week that patrols by natural resources officers and police have begun and will continue through August. The gate attendants have also begun collecting fees for using the parking lots on weekends and will begin charging fees every day beginning next weekend.
In other beach news, the mobile comfort station has been delivered to the town and should be open by June 22.
Mr. DeConto reiterated that all walking path areas will be clearly marked, as will the areas that are off-limits. He asked that beachgoers obey the “Keep Off The Dune” signs.
Failure to stay off the protected areas will result in $200 fines, Mr. DeConto has said, adding that no dogs are allowed on the beach.