Children playing, cyclists riding the trails and dog walkers diligently keeping up with their pooches, all these things would seem inconceivable only a few months ago when Sandy engulfed Sandy Hook's Gateway National Recreation Center, yet the park's opening day was filled with all of those sights.

Sandy Hook reopens (Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media)

Sandy Hook reopened its gates officially May 1 at 5 a.m., and while the roads are still far from perfect and a few beach stations remain closed, it's a far cry from the sight just months ago when the Northeast's most brutal storm rolled in.

"We had the roads covered with sand, it looked like the Sahara desert, " says Diana Burich, K-12 Program Coordinator for the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium.

"Something that was pretty amazing is that Fort Hancock where we're standing now flooded, which hasn't happened as far as I know in the history of the fort. That flooding and the sand damage compromised the sewage treatment plans and the telephones," Burich said.

In addition to the park reopening to the public, the Sea Grant Consortium hosted its first educational session to elementary students of the Lacey Township School District. Burich explains the children learn about the history of the peninsula and the military base that occupied it at one time as well as get hands-on lessons about the estuary; particularly the salt marsh and barrier beaches.

Sandy Hook Reopens (Photo by Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media)

"They are engaging in hands-on activities, they're working cooperatively with a certain task. They enjoy the camaraderie as well as the subject matter, because a lot of time when you take kids outside of the classroom it's a lot easier for the kids to absorb."

The Sea Grant Consortium hosts field trips at the peninsula from April till November each year, teaching upwards of twenty thousand students each month.

"We have them come as far as NY and PA," says Burich.

Burich says, in addition to being something children look forward to, the environmental science education will play a vital role in their future.

"New Jersey is a coastal state, we have 130 miles of coastline and a lot of kid's lives will be affected by the coast in some way; either through the economy or profession."

Liz Hutler, elementary teacher in the Lacey Township school district, says even though the students live along the water, it's important they understand it.

"They live here and our environment is changing and they need to understand what these changes are."

She notes they do the trip almost annually, and it's one of the children's favorites.

Things to know for visitors:

  • Bring your own plastic bags for garbage.
  • Beaches B, Gunnison and North will be open to the public. Beach B is not life guard protected. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
  • The Sea Gulls nest will not be open in all likelihood. Food trucks will be available as will umbrella/chair rentals starting July 1st.
  • Sewage systems are undergoing repairs, portable toilets will be available.
  • Be careful for sand drifts on bike paths. Fort Hancock trails are clear.
  • Beach parking permits are available for $75, daily parking is free until Memorial Day weekend when it will cost $15 per day.
  • Most electric, telephone and sewage was restored after the storm, but not all.
  • Beach centers will open Memorial Day weekend.
  • Bike rentals will only be available at Fort Hancock.