The last time Orchard Beach received a new load of sand, the Beatles had just released their first album in the United States, Muhammed Ali was the brand new heavyweight champ and the civil rights movement was in full swing.
A lot has changed since 1964, except the sand at Orchard Beach, which was finally replaced this winter after nearly 50 years.
The New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed work on the Orchard Beach Shoreline Protection Project this week and the mile-long beach received about 268,000 cubic yards of sand as part of the project that began in November, which cost a total of $13 million that was split between the Army Corps and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Army Corps also regraded and smoothed the offshore slope along the south end of the beach, with the improvements designed to fight erosion, reduce overcrowding and eliminate drop-off zones, which can be drowning hazards.
“The completion of this project will go a long way toward providing the residents of the city with a first-class, cost-effective recreation option for years o come,” Col. John R. Boulé of the Army Corps said in a statement.
Congressmen Joe Crowley and José E. Serrano had lobbied for years in Washington D.C. for the funds to make the improvements and Serrano believes that the fact that he sits on the house Appropriations Committee helped secure the money needed for the project.
“I’m not ashamed to say that is a proper behavior for a member of congress,” Serrano said. “Of course when we asked for the money at first there was concern that this was for a beach. I’m sure any taxpayer that walks onto that beach is going to say ‘this is worth it.’”
According to Serrano, the Orchard Beach project was an example of a way in which earmarks, now controversial in Washington, can have tangible benefits for a community and sees the Orchard Beach improvements as part of an overall effort to improve the environment in the Bronx and make the borough greener.
The effort started with the Bronx River Park redevelopment, and Serrano believes it can continue, even if the current anti-spending climate in Washington makes it harder.
“We will find a way to continue this fight regardless of where the earmarks situation may be,” Serrano said. “The flowers, trees, and grass around us are part of who we are as human beings, and while we do face a lot of challenges on a daily basis, our jobs or family lives, we do need to find time to enjoy and promote open spaces.”