By Bill Parry

With the swimming season over at city beaches, the city Parks Department released data that showed more than 4 million people visited Rockaway Beach this year. While that figure marks a 25 percent increase over last year, it’s half the number of beachgoers Rockaway had in 2012 before Sandy tore through the peninsula.

“It’s good to have the crowds returning, but remember the summer was cooler than normal,” Parks Department Rockaway Administrator Jill Webber said. “We didn’t survey individual beachgoers to find out why they were coming back, but there’s no question: Rockaway Beach is booming with a lot of people moving in and it’s particularly popular with the surfers and art crowd.”

The beach itself was bigger and cleaner than it was before the storm after $140 million was invested to repair and restore Rockaway Beach. Crews from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pumped roughly 3.5 million cubic yards of sand on to the beaches since the storm. They resumed work two weeks ago to add another 500,000 cubic yards in a final push to finish construction by late October.

Once the sand placement work is complete, Rockaway Beach will be higher and wider than it has been in decades, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The work, combined with a city-funded elevated berm at the back of the project area, will provide a greater level of risk management than has ever existed along the Rockaway. The fortified beach will absorb the impact from high tides and waves during major storms, reducing the risk of flooding and inundation to homes and communities.

The bigger the beach, the more work for the Parks Department.

“We’re going to have to spend the off-season preparing the dunes with plantings to keep the sand in place,” Webber said. “We get a lot of volunteers to help us. The community is really great when it comes to taking care of their beach.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr‌y@cng‌local.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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