The Fauls family takes a walk on the replenished south end beaches.


Is this Sea Isle City, or the Sahara Desert?

Sea Isle’s eroded beachfront is being replenished with a vast expanse of deep, powdery sand that seems almost desert-like in its great size.

Come summer, there will be plenty of room for all those beach umbrellas, tents and cabanas. Maybe a few camels, too.

Well, just joking.

But the much-wider beaches should give the summer crowds a lot more space to stretch out. Just ask 10-year-old Eloise Fauls, whose family from Berwyn, Pa., has a vacation home on 85th Street in Sea Isle.

“They were too small before. They were packed in the summer because there wasn’t enough sand to sit on. Now, there will be a lot of room,” Eloise said of the bigger beaches that are replacing the previously sand-starved shoreline.

Eloise and her parents, Tracy and Ryan Fauls, and her brothers, Wyatt, 12, and Jack, 6, were astonished by what they saw when they walked on the replenished south end beaches during a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at the shore.

“It’s amazing,” Tracy Fauls said. “I’m so happy. They obviously did a lot of work.”

Sea Isle is the last of three towns – Ocean City and Strathmere were the other two – to have their storm-damaged beaches restored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in what was originally a $33.7 million project.

An extra $5 million worth of sand is being added in Sea Isle after additional federal funding became available. Mayor Leonard Desiderio said the extra sand would be enough to fill about 50 football fields 4 feet deep.

Although Sea Isle officials had originally hoped the project would be completed by the Memorial Day weekend kickoff to summer, the latest timetable for wrapping things up is mid-June, Desiderio said.

A pathway leads to the wider south end beaches.

Originally, the project called for 388,000 cubic yards of beach sand in the south end of the island from about 73rd Street to Townsends Inlet at 94th Street.

However, the $5 million worth of new sand will add an extra 292,000 cubic yards to the south end for a total of 680,000 cubic yards in this area.

Once the construction crews have completed restoring the south end, they will spread 252,000 cubic yards of new sand on the shoreline in central and downtown Sea Isle from about 29th Street to 53rd street.

“In the event of work being done on or after Memorial Day weekend, the project will be downtown at that point, and no one will have to walk more than two blocks on the Promenade to access an open beach. The Army Corps of Engineers strictly enforces the work limits to ensure that the maximum amount of beach remains accessible to the public,” Desiderio said in a statement.

On Sunday, an army of workers and construction machinery was spreading new sand on the beach at 82nd Street. A large, barge-like dredge anchored offshore is taking sand from the bottom of the ocean and pumping it onto the beaches through a network of massive pipes.

Construction crews spread new sand on the beach at 82nd Street.

Lured by the 70-degree temperatures at the shore, Stephen Hanas drove down to Sea Isle on Sunday from his home in Philadelphia for some relaxing beach time at 85th Street with his children, Jackson, 8, Lily, 6, and Dillon, 5.

Among the family members, Jackson seemed to notice the dramatic difference in the size of the beach the most.

“There used to be a giant drop,” Jackson said, describing how the beach was once badly eroded.

Stephen Hanas also remembered just how severely the beach was washed away.

“When we were here the last two times, the beach would go straight down,” he said.

When the beach was a narrow sliver of sand, the Hanas family had only a short walk out to the ocean.

“Now, it’s a big walk,” Jackson said of the wide beach.

Stephen Hanas enjoys some family time on the wider beaches with his children, Jackson, Lily and Dillon.

Father Robert Hughes, a Catholic priest, has been watching the progress of the beach project from 91st Street, where he lives.

“I think it looks beautiful,” he said of the replenished beach while standing on the pathway at 91st Street on Sunday.

He pointed out that not only had the beach been badly eroded, but also the dunes that normally provide a protective barrier from the stormy ocean.

“The dunes were in danger,” he said. “They couldn’t protect.”

Now, there is a huge sand barrier to protect the multimillion-dollar oceanfront homes thanks to the beach replenishment project. Previously, some of the oceanfront homes teetered on the edge of badly depleted dunes.

Father Hughes works in the Camden Diocese of the Catholic churches serving the South Jersey area. On the weekends, he is at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sea Isle.

He noted that each week he visits Sea Isle, he has been noticing the transformation of the beaches ever since the replenishment project began in March.

“It needed to be done,” he said. “I’m glad it’s been done. Hopefully, it will last a while.”

Father Robert Hughes, a Catholic priest, admires the restored beachfront from the pathway at 91st Street.