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Contact: Paula Valentine, 631-687-4759
Patchogue, NY - While there is still evidence of the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on parts of Fire Island, most of Fire Island National Seashore's storm-damaged facilities will be reopened by Memorial Day weekend. The Fire Island Lighthouse, which has remained closed since late October 2012, will raise its flag and open its doors at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, as long as parking is once again available at Robert Moses State Park Field 5.
"While damage to the Fire Island Lighthouse was minimal," stated Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Christopher Soller, "Hurricane Sandy heavily damaged access routes to the site, including through Robert Moses State Park, where most visitors to the Lighthouse park." Sandy destroyed all Seashore-owned boardwalks connecting Field 5 and the Lighthouse, and damaged the bayside dock used by water taxis and other permitted vessels, as well as other boardwalks connecting the Lighthouse to the dock and the beach. The "Burma Road," which passes in front of the Lighthouse, was also damaged during the storm. The National Park Service has received funding to repair the federally-owned boardwalks, the Lighthouse dock, and the roadway, but work will not commence until later this summer. Until the boardwalks, dock and road are repaired, visitors will need to plan for a little beachcombing in order to get to the Fire Island Lighthouse. People coming from Robert Moses State Park Field 5 are directed to walk down the beach from Field 5, a distance of about ¾ mile. Those coming from Kismet, to the east, are directed to walk on the beach, a distance of about 1 mile.
Dunes in front of the Fire Island Lighthouse were completely leveled by the storm. The area known as Lighthouse Beach, which had long been used by nude sunbathers, is no longer available as a clothing-optional area. As outlined in the park's compendium, the National Park Service is enforcing New York State's public nudity law at this location and on other federally-owned Fire Island beaches.
The Fire Island Lighthouse, usually open year-round and visited by more than 100,000 people annually, is operated for the National Park Service by the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society (FILPS). Closed to the public since Superstorm Sandy struck last year, FILPS will reopen the Keepers Quarters museum and gift shop, boathouse and Fresnel Lens Building on Saturday, May 25, at 9:30 a.m. "We're really anxious to open up," said Dave Griese, administrator for FILPS, "and we welcome back all who have been patiently waiting to get a little closer to their favorite lighthouse." There will be no Fire Island Lighthouse tower tours until early August, due to a pre-scheduled project to undertake structural repairs inside the tower. "However," said Griese, "FILPS annual art show will still take place at the Lighthouse, with a free shuttle provided during the opening reception on Thursday, June 27. The Sunset and Starlight Dinner Cruise is still on for June 15, although we'll not be able to tour the Lighthouse, and the annual Barefoot Black Tie gala will be held on August 10." All are fundraisers for FILPS, which also relies on income from tours, gift shop sales and donations to keep the lighthouse staffed and open to the public. "The Seashore couldn't provide this level of service without the support of our partner, the Preservation Society." said Superintendent Soller. "This is our most heavily visited site, so we have made getting our facilities back in shape at the Fire Island Lighthouse a top priority."
Access to the Fire Island Lighthouse now involves a ¾- mile walk down the beach between Robert Moses State Park's Field 5 and the lighthouse, and a one-mile walk from Kismet to the Fire Island Lighthouse. Pedestrians should allow at least 30 minutes walking time each way, and be prepared for a more strenuous walk through soft sand, with no shade. A hat, sunscreen and water are recommended. This route is not suitable for strollers, unless they are equipped with fat tires designed for beach use. Overwash from Hurricane Sandy provided additional piping plover habitat in the vicinity of the Lighthouse, so visitors are advised to respect the areas fenced off for nesting and foraging of these birds and other threatened and endangered species.
"We appreciate our visitors understanding and patience during this time as we continue to make repairs Sandy at the Fire Island Lighthouse," said Soller, "and at other Seashore facilities and gradually recover from the Superstorm Sandy and in some cases, face a 'new normal' on Fire Island." For additional information and updates about other park facilities, services and programs opening for Memorial Day weekend, see: www.nps.gov/fiis/planyourvisit/programs-this-week.htm
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.