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Fire Island Beach Openings Delayed as Sandy Repair Continues

Sandy shutters lighthouse nude beach for good; Barrett Beach may open on time.

Fire Island National Seashore is striving to have most barrier beach park facilities open and ready for use by Memorial Day weekend, but is stopping short of saying the scenario is within reach.

Work to remove debris, repair docks and restore services is continuing and while some centers, such as the William Floyd Estate and Wilderness Center reopened a month after Hurricane Sandy, many other FINS beaches remain closed.

The good news for Patchogue Fire Island lovers is that Barrett Beach restrooms should reopen on schedule, though primitive facilities at Old Inlet, including a small dock, boardwalk to the beach, and vault toilet, were destroyed by Sandy.

Due to their location within the federally designated Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, these facilities will not be replaced, according to FINS. 

“There is no guarantee that everything will be up and running by summer,” stated Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller in a press statement on Thursday.

Dune destruction and bayside shoreline erosion have damaged trails and structures at some beaches.

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"We continue to make repairs, but it's too early to confirm exact opening dates," said Soller, "We suspect that things won't quite be 'business as usual' this summer."   

Traditional mid-May openings of Watch Hill and Sailors Haven could be postponed, according to FINS, as decking and bulkheading was damaged and need to be repaired before electric service can be restored. Beach access could be delayed past May given ocean-side dune washovers.

The Fire Island Lighthouse has remained closed since Hurricane Sandy and while the historic structure suffered minor damage, access routes in and around the lighthouse have been impacted. It’s likely the lighthouse won’t re open until Robert Moses State Park Field 5 is reopened.

The FINS release states that construction could affect reopening on a regular schedule as all Seashore-owned boardwalks connecting Field 5 and the Lighthouse were destroyed and removed.

The bayside dock used by water taxis was destroyed, as were other boardwalks connecting the Lighthouse to the dock and the beach. Burma Road, which passes in front of the lighthouse, was also damaged during the storm.

"Until the boardwalks can be replaced and roadway repairs can be completed all pedestrian access to the Fire Island Lighthouse may have to be routed down the beach between Field 5 and the Lighthouse, a distance of more than a half-mile,” said Soller.

The dunes in front of the lighthouse were completely leveled and the lone nude beach in New York State, called Lighthouse Beach, will no longer be available as a clothing-optional area.

"Due to a variety of reasons in addition to the loss of the dunes which shielded this area from view, state public nudity laws will be enforced at this location," stated Chief Ranger Lena Koschmann.   

A breach at Old Inlet is being monitored by a multi-agency team, according to FINS, to determine if it will close naturally or needs to be closed manually.

As of February 5 the team had not made a determination, states the release.

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