Shoppers and vendors pack the Promenade for the Skimmer Festival, Sea Isle City's premier summer event.


Sea Isle City’s former Boardwalk, the epicenter of the resort’s tourism trade, was reduced to twisted and mangled bits of wood rubble by the colossal Ash Wednesday storm that pummeled the Jersey Shore in 1962.

Realizing the vulnerability of having a wood structure so close to the powerful ocean, the city replaced what little was left of the Boardwalk with the asphalt and concrete Promenade walkway that stands today as a tourist haven.

Now, Mayor Leonard Desiderio is hopeful that the oceanfront Promenade can be made even more inviting to tourists with the help of a “Boardwalk Fund” announced by Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday during his State of the State address.

“The Promenade is a great attraction to many people,” Desiderio said in an interview Wednesday.

Shortly after learning of the Boardwalk Fund, Desiderio said he called the Governor’s Office on Wednesday for more details, including whether Sea Isle’s Promenade would be eligible for Boardwalk funds.

“I can’t see why it’s not going to include the Promenade,” he said of the state program.

Officials in the Governor’s Office have promised Desiderio that they will get back to him with more details. They indicated that the Promenade likely would be eligible for funding, he said.

Mayor Leonard Desiderio

In the meantime, Desiderio is already thinking of possible ways Sea Isle could benefit from the Boardwalk Fund to enhance the Promenade, a hub for walking, biking, shopping and special events such as the Skimmer Festival summer extravaganza.

Decorative lighting, new railings, new or upgraded public restrooms and renovations to the Promenade’s iconic gazebo at John F. Kennedy Boulevard are some of the improvements he has in mind.

He also wonders whether the funding could be used to improve the pathways that connect the Promenade to the beaches and to build handicap-accessible ramps leading to the Promenade from the streets.

The Promenade stretches between 29th and 57th streets and is crowded with tourists during the bustling summer vacation season.

The city has been livening up the Promenade in recent years with new decorative lighting, new benches and a new public address system, among other improvements.

The Promenade is a popular place for pedestrians and bicyclists in the summer.

Sea Isle also has a quaint wooden boardwalk that overlooks the city’s public marina along the bayfront off 42nd Place. Desiderio said he also wants to explore whether the marina’s boardwalk would qualify for the Boardwalk Fund.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Murphy announced that the Boardwalk Fund will allow the state to partner with shore towns and counties to make “critical upgrades” to their boardwalks.

“Our boardwalks are more than just places for recreation and exercise,” Murphy said in his remarks. “They are more than just the space that connects a parking area to the beach. They are wooden Main Streets which, in so many ways, define their communities and support their economies as much as the sand and surf.”

Murphy plans to announce more details about the Boardwalk Fund when he unveils the state budget in February.

In Cape May County, the towns of Ocean City, Wildwood and North Wildwood have boardwalks that serve as their centerpiece attractions for amusements, dining, retail shops and recreation. Sea Isle and Cape May have beachfront promenades.

The Boardwalk Fund may be a possible source of financing for renovations to the iconic gazebo overlooking the Promenade

Desiderio, in addition to being Sea Isle’s mayor, also serves as the new director of the Cape May County Board of Commissioners, an elected body that oversees county government.

As director of the Board of Commissioners, he plans to discuss the Boardwalk Fund with local officials after he gets more details from the Governor’s Office.

Desiderio noted that Cape May County’s tourism industry generates nearly $7 billion in annual revenue – and the boardwalks are a huge part of the shore’s appeal to visitors and vacationers.

“Cape May County is a $7 billion economic engine for the state,” he said. “We have iconic boardwalks that bring millions of people to Cape May County.”