A long-term stimulus is built by tourists
This is far off-topic here, but please indulge me, as I have this forum to reach a larger audience, and this really (and literally) hits close to home.
I am considering myself incredibly lucky, having escaped harm and damage from this storm. I was evacuated for two weeks last year during Hurricane Irene, and the loss of a few possessions and sentimental items, that, while incredibly upsetting at the time, still pales in comparison to the loss many have to endure today.
During the aftermath of the storm, I recalled strolling the Boardwalk in Atlantic City with my family just 10 weeks ago where a food stand posted a sign that addressed the pressing issue of the day: “We are not responsible if seagulls eat your food.” The mentions of shore destinations were not part of the annual ritual of counting down exits on the Garden State Parkway, but instead they composed a dreadful list of devastation.
For those who want to help, first, the obvious: please donate to the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. They need your help in the short term. But if you want to do more, what can you do? Because attention will eventually, and understandably, fade, now is the time to make this suggestion to help the area thrive once again.
The shore needs stimulus. While the government will certainly step in, you can invest in a long-term recovery of New Jersey’s shore destinations. Once safety and security have been attended to, they will earnestly rebuild all of the attractions in due time. All of the work will culminate in the payoff as the summer season begins on Memorial Day. If turnout at the shore is low, then the rebuilding effort will also slow down.
Soon, many of us will begin planning our summer vacations, and I urge those who are within a day’s drive from the Jersey shore (and even beyond) to consider spending time there, even if for a day trip or an overnight. There will still be stark visible reminders of this storm, no matter where you go next summer — shells of houses in partial repair or abandoned, entire city blocks of nothing but foundations, and businesses that were unable to reopen because of the losses. While it is a hard dose of reality, if vacationers opt out of this reality check, it will add years to the recovery.
While year-round residents of the coast sometimes deride the necessary evil of the out-of-town visitors descending on the area for three months every year, traffic congestion on the highway arteries to the barrier islands will be the true lifeblood to the region, pumping money into a fragile economy, and will signal another normal returning to the area.
Because the shore consists mostly of mom-and-pop businesses, the money you spend there will have a multiplied stimulus effect. Money spent to a local restaurant, for instance, pays the wait staff, who patronize the local shopkeeper, who orders from his suppliers, who refuel their delivery trucks at the local gas station — and the cycle continues. A jar that accrues $50 in loose change over the next nine months could be an investment of hundreds of dollars in the long run.
There is also a multiplied reward to spending time and money at the Jersey shore. You will no doubt enjoy your time and build precious memories that will truly last a lifetime. You also will have the satisfaction of building, well, buildings and roads and beaches back to the way they were when the season ended on Labor Day 2012.
And years in the future, you can return to see the area fully rebuilt, remembering a vacant space that was at a particular location in the Summer of ’13, and being able to proudly say that you helped build that.