Weathering the Storm: Parks from Florida to Massachusetts Recover from Hurricane Sandy

Article excerpt

WHETHER YOU CALL IT A HURRICANE, superstorm, or Frankenstorm, Sandy packed a wallop when it hit the U.S. East Coast in late October. Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, spreading 1,100 miles wide. Although winds topped out at 90 miles per hour upon landfall in New Jersey, Sandy's most damaging assault was a record high storm surge, which reached 13.88 feet at New York City's Battery Park. At least 131 people were killed in the United States and damages have been estimated as high as $71 billion.

Here are some firsthand reports from affected park and recreation agencies gathered through the NRPA networks in early November:

Boca Raton, Florida

The primary impact of the storm on Boca Raton, Florida, was erosion and damage to park features. We recognize that this damage is minimal when compared to many communities along the coast. While there was no need to assist with a recovery effort, we thought you and others might enjoy reading an email we received after the storm passed regarding Ocean Lifeguard Ed Noon, who works for Boca Raton Ocean Rescue:

"Last weekend my family and I went to the beach at South County (Palmetto Beach) to watch the waves. While standing on the beach, an immense surge occurred which reached the dune line. My 5-year-old daughter was knocked down and was being swept away. If not for the courage and reaction of one individual, I cannot imagine what might have happened. In the truest sense of the word, lifeguard Ed Noon is a hero.... I owe him everything for rescuing my little girl."

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--J.D. Varney, Recreation Superintendent, Recreation Services Department, City of Boca Raton

Boston, Massachusetts

Nearly 800 street tree emergency calls were received by the City of Boston because of Hurricane Sandy's strong winds and heavy rainfall. The Boston Parks Department has responsibility for the city's 39,000 street trees in addition to trees on park properties. A damage assessment has found at least 30 park properties in need of serious tree debris removal work.

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Tree crews had worked for several days prior to the storm's scheduled arrival in Boston on Monday, October 29. Precarious-looking trees and limbs were cut to prevent them from falling onto utility wires, streets, or homes.

During the course of the severe weather, the mayor's 24-hour hotline received approximately 800 calls from citizens regarding tree emergencies. The Boston Parks and Recreation Department's senior managers manned the emergency operations center and stayed in constant contact with officials from utility companies and with managers of other departments in order to coordinate the response to reports of fallen trees on live electrical wires and onto streets.

The Boston Parks Department has received praise for its handling of the storm. One citizen in an email wrote, "I've never seen government more efficient as the speed with which they are clearing huge downed trees in Boston."

--Jacquelyn Goddard, Communications Director, Boston Parks

Morris County, New Jersey

Much of our area is still without power, and gas (where you can find it) is a long wait. Our ice arena facility is a Red Cross shelter. At the moment, we have about 60 guests. Since we have three ice surfaces, we are also still open for business on two surfaces for those who want to get out of the house. Our parks are a mess, but we are offering some locations as staging areas for the power company. We are certainly not as devastated as the Jersey shore and we offer our prayers to our friends there.

--Denise Lanza, Morris County Park Commission, New Jersey

Greenwich, Connecticut

For Greenwich, Connecticut, Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Siciliano, it will be months before some of the town's recreational facilities will be up and running. The dock at Island Beach was destroyed by the tidal surges and 80-mile-per-hour winds that pummeled the coastline on October 29 and 30. …