State parks rebounding from storm

Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme lost a 7-foot dune, untold yards of beach sand and about 120 feet of boardwalk in Hurricane Sandy, sustaining the heaviest damage of the region's state parks.

Repairs have begun. The park will remain closed until crews ensure it will be safe for the public, said John Cimochowski, assistant director of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's state parks division.

"The good news is that a lot of the sections of the boardwalk that broke away floated onto the jetty and are repairable," Cimochowski said Wednesday afternoon, as three payloaders plucked sections of boardwalk off the rocky jetty.

Cimochowski spent the day visiting the state's shoreline parks to assess damage. Fort Griswold in Groton and Fort Trumbull in New London came through the storm unscathed, he said. Fort Trumbull, along with Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown, was among 10 parks reopened Wednesday after being closed since Monday for the storm. The tower at Fort Griswold is closed for the season, but the grounds are open.

At Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, some slate shingles were lost off the roof of Eolia, the mansion on the former estate, and on an adjacent storage building. Some large trees were toppled by the storm, debris carried by storm surge covered several yards of the great lawn and a huge gouge of sand was taken out of the beach, which had been heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene last year.

A wooden platform and walkway onto the beach, repaired after Irene, was destroyed again, Cimochowski said.

"The stairs are sitting on the beach," he said.

The channel at Goshen Cove, reconfigured by Irene, was shifted again by Sandy.

"This storm ripped it right open to its old natural channel," he said.

He hopes Harkness will be able to reopen within the next few days.

At Rocky Neck, the boardwalk, just completed this year, will be repaired, using some of the retrieved sections, he added. The Ellie Mitchell Pavillion, build by Works Progress Administration during the FDR administration, lost several slate shingles off its roof, and others are hanging loose. The building will have to be cordoned off until repairs can be made, he said.

As for the beach, parks crews will restore a gradual slope between an area of shrubs and pine trees and the beach. The storm cut a sharp and dangerous dropoff between the two areas, Cimochowski said.

Otherwise, he said, the plan is let the beach repair itself as new sand is brought in by tides and future storms. Because of rail lines behind the beach, there is no access for the kinds of heavy equipment that would be needed to bring in new sand.

"So we'll just let nature do what nature does," he said.

Parks update

State parks reopened Wednesday:
• Black Rock State Park, Watertown
• Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill
• Fort Trumbull State Park, New London
• Haddam Meadows State Park, Haddam
• Kellogg Environmental Center, Derby
• Millers Pond State Park, Haddam and Durham
• Pachaug State Forest, Voluntown
• Putman Memorial State Park, Redding
• Topsmead State Forest, Litchfield
• Wadsworth Falls State Park, Middletown and Middlefield.

All other state parks and forests are closed while DEEP staff complete damage assessments.

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