Hail Misquamicut's many helping hands

What a wonderful and appropriate gesture is planned to celebrate the great strides achieved in the recovery of the Misquamicut area from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and to acknowledge the contributions of the many people who made it possible.

The Greater Westerly Chamber of Commerce expects thousands of people to join hands May 17 along the shores of Misquamicut State Beach for the "Hands Along the Sands" event. Beginning at 10 a.m., it will symbolize the impressive cooperation that was necessary to make the coming beach season possible.

Sandy hit the Misquamicut beach district in Rhode Island harder than any location in the local area, damaging hundreds of structures, some beyond repair. The storm left streets and yards filled with debris and sand washed from the beach and the dunes was everywhere. Most viewing the destruction of the October storm found it hard to imagine a recovery in time for another summer season only a half-year away.

But through a difficult winter the work continued and, while some scars will be visible and some landmarks missed, Miquamicut will be open for business and for beachgoers.

High marks go to the Westerly chamber and Executive Director Lisa Konicki for creating a recovery fund to help businesses mend. The effort has raised $315,000, providing critical grants so that small businesses could keep their recovery efforts moving when private insurance payments lagged. This was a regional effort, Ocean House in Watch Hill raising more than $100,000 at a gala and businesses in the Greater Mystic area pledging $57,000.

Armies of volunteers descended on the area to help clean debris. Rhode Island regulatory officials were able to streamline the process of approving the environmental and other permits necessary to rebuild and repair. Beach lovers bought hundreds of "Bring Back the Beach" T-shirts.

There were indeed many helping hands.

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