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Walk this way, Niantic

Published January 18. 2014 4:00AM

It appears that this time, finally, there are plans to properly rebuild the Niantic Bay Boardwalk so it can be a source of public enjoyment for many years to come. Up until now, it has often been a real pain.

The 1.1-mile walkway opened in 2005, offering a serene stroll along Niantic Bay from the Hole in the Wall Beach to Cini Park. Unfortunately, Mother Nature and poor construction techniques led to repeated damage and frequent closings.

In December 2006, a nor'easter tore away big chunks of the gravel path. The town sued several firms involved in the construction, resulting in a $1.6 million settlement.

Then in August 2011, a storm surge from Tropical Storm Irene again washed away swaths of the boardwalk, leaving it unusable.

In October 2012 it was Superstorm Sandy's turn, inflicting more damage.

Is it worth rebuilding again? Yes, if carried out correctly, which is what East Lyme is planning to do.

This week the Zoning Commission gave its unanimous approval to the reconstruction plan, finding it was consistent with the Coastal Area Management Act. The new walkway will have concrete construction, steel pilings and riprap stones to diffuse a storm surge. It will also be located about 30 inches higher than the original design, above the 100-year storm flood level.

It will be similar in construction to a portion of the walkway already reconstructed during the project that replaced the Amtrak railroad bridge with a modern span.

In September, First Selectman Paul Formica said the town had about $4.7 million set aside for the project, including insurance payments, the damage award from the lawsuit settlement, federal disaster relief money and $500,000 in state grant money for small town economic assistance.

The refurbished walkway can be another attraction to continue the economic upswing in the vibrant Niantic village. It is also a great amenity for the public, one that should encourage a healthy pursuit - walking.

For those reasons it is worth the large investment, with the expectation this will be the last one for a very long time.

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