NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Newport's Cliff Walk, which runs between the Atlantic Ocean and some of the city's most spectacular Gilded Age mansions, reopened Tuesday, 20 months after Superstorm Sandy washed away whole sections and millions were spent to restore it.
The 3.5-mile trail attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and is Rhode Island's most visited tourist spot.
"It really doesn't get any better. We're very blessed here in Rhode Island," said Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who walked the trail before the ribbon-cutting ceremony launched its reopening. He thanked everyone involved in the project for ensuring the public continues to have access to "such gorgeous real estate."
Tourists who were eager to use the walk ducked under the ribbon that hung across the entrance and streamed onto the trail.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who represents the city of Newport, said the Cliff Walk is now safe, beautiful, and open for people from all over the world to enjoy.
Some walkways were washed away or caved in during the October 2012 storm. In other areas, huge boulders were moved by the violent surf. Most of the walkways had been closed since Sandy, with only a mile-long section remaining open.
Repairing the damage and building retaining walls cost about $5 million in mostly federal funds. A continuous section of more than two miles has reopened. A small section in a less-traveled portion of the walk is expected to open next month, once a retaining wall is built. The city is also building the trail's first permanent restrooms.
Chafee said he plans to return to walk the entire trail.
Construction crews worked long hours over the winter to ensure the walkway would be open for the height of the tourist season, said Robert Power, the Cliff Walk Commission chairman.
"We're happy to have people back," he said.
A couple from Stockholm, Berndt and Angelica Martenson, said they walked the entire route Tuesday morning on their first visit to New England.
"It's a very nice walk," Berndt Martenson said. "I had no idea about the opening today. We're lucky."
Marc and Joy Cehovsky, of Fairfield, Connecticut headed toward the section that had previously been closed.
"It's a national treasure," Marc Cehovsky said. "Everyone knows it and comes here for it. Especially on days like today."