WILDWOOD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "This boardwalk, we call it the crossroads, really, of Cape May County family vacation," said Krista Fitzsimons. "It's super special to me. We're standing on Maple Avenue and the boardwalk and that's where I grew up. So I've been here all my life."
Fitzsimons, who serves as Commissioner and the Deputy Mayor of Wildwood, is part of the team dedicated to phasing in a rejuvenation of the city's famous boardwalk. The century-old staple of the Jersey Shore has welcomed millions of tourists over the years and is crucial to the local economy.
During this year's off-season, repairs will be made to the section between Maple Avenue and Wildwood Avenue. There, planks have been plucked and rubble has crumbled into the sand. But the current state of deconstruction is a sign of good things to come.
"In 2019, it was discovered that some of the concrete was in pretty bad shape," said Fitzsimons. "And we feel like it's certainly, because of safety, worth rehabilitating. It needs it. There's no doubt about that."
Despite the shocking sight, locals seem relieved that the boardwalk is undergoing a major makeover.
"I'm really glad it's finally happening and it needed to be done," said Taylor Henry, a lifelong resident who joined the ranks of the Wildwood Historical Society and now serves as its president.
"This particular boardwalk started to take the shape probably around 1911 and at first, there were a bunch of smaller raised boardwalks," said Henry. "They all got connected over the years. So it's evolved a lot."
Locals are relieved that biking and walking will be made into a safer experience on the boardwalk. And though the cement tracks for the Tram Car are expected to be replaced by wood, the iconic transportation service will keep chugging along.
"It's gonna make it nice and safe for people to be able to travel, the old people walking their dogs," said Jean Bannon, who recently moved to Cape May Court House. "I mean, hopefully they get to do the whole thing."
Hundreds of small businesses populate the boardwalk's surface and rely on its foot traffic for survival. There, Laura's Fudge first started as a prize featured on a game wheel. Now, it stands alone as a popular spot located a few paces from the base of the boards.
"We're seeing a lot more newer faces around here these days and I think, come the summer, I think a lot of people are going to come down and want to see this new boardwalk," said Dave Roach, co-owner of Laura's Fudge.
The construction project was first estimated to cost around $40 to $60 million, but engineers took a second look and found areas to cut the cost. Most recently, $4 million was included in the state's budget to contribute to the project. City leaders intend on cementing partnerships with the state and other funding partners to avoid reaching into the pockets of taxpayers.
"We suspect this will be at least a five year project right now," said Fitzsimons. "It'll just be the section that started just a couple of weeks ago, and it will be finished before the season opens in 2022."
To learn more about the City of Wildwood, visit their website.