Orchard Beach To Be Refaced After 2010 Season

After more than 40 years of nature’s unrelenting pounding, the Bronx Riviera, will be getting a complete make-over.

Once this year’s beach season wraps up, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking to begin a more than $12 million project to fix the erosion along the beach and restore the roughly 1-mile long shore line to its original shape. The project should also include restoring the rock face on the south end of the beach to help cut down on future erosion.

“The project is basically going to be beach-fill,” Frank Verga, a project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers said. “We’re refilling it back to what it was. It was a man-made beach and we’re looking to approximately bring in what has been lost. It hadn’t been nourished in quite a long time.”

About 250,000 cubic yards of sand will be pumped along the shore, which should increase the width of the beach anywhere from 40 to 50 feet into to the water, Verga said.

Verga said the Army Corps expects to accept bids for the construction and sand purchase over the summer and with the project expected to start in September, crews will pump the sand into the beach throughout the winter. Work should be completed before the 2011 beach season so beach-goers should not be affected by the project.

This will be the first restoration project of the beach since the 1960s, Verga said. The beach was opened in 1936 after NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses created the beach by transforming several inlets along the coast into the beach complex people know today. The feat was accomplished by barging in more than 1.1 million cubic yards of sand from Brooklyn and New Jersey.

The latest restoration project will be cost-shared between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NYC Parks Department. While it was first approved by the federal government in 1996, it was modified in 2007 and the agencies have continued to negotiate the funding levels ever since.

“I can remember when this was first talked about. It was the impetus of Community Board 10 to petition the Army Corps for this replenishment and it’s very timely that this is happening now before we have a safety condition because things have really depleted over the years,” Marianne Anderson, administrator of Pelham Bay Park, said. “It’s been a long time in the making, and thanks to Congressman (Jose) Serrano and Congressman (Joseph) Crowley for keeping the project alive and getting the federal funding.”

According to Verga, the beach project was pursued because restoring it should have an economic impact to the community by bringing more people to the area. Although Anderson said she did not have figures about what the impact of the project will be, she does expect it will be positive for the more than 1 million people that visit the beach each year.

“The beach is so popular in and of itself, but especially with this economy, the numbers have really picked up as people are looking for fun, inexpensive activities,” she said. “Orchard Beach is such an icon for the Bronx. This is going to be a really great project for the whole borough.”

Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3394 or mmitchell@cnglocal.com

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