2013-04-26 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

This week I’d like to share an idea I had about a month ago called “Breakwalk” that combines the functions of a breakwater and boardwalk.

Traditional boardwalks usually have decks constructed of wood or composite materials preferred by runners and walkers over a solid deck made of concrete. Concrete however has been promoted for its longevity, reduced maintenance costs and is preferred by cyclists and other people on wheeled vehicles like scooters, wagons and wheelchairs. It also seems to do better in storms than wood.

Breakwalk’s first innovation is that it provides for two decks, one made of wood, the other concrete or some other smooth, solid material. This approach seems to satisfy both groups of users.

Breakwalk is also designed to utilize the existing concrete stanchions or piers which have supported Rockaway’s original boardwalk for the last 50 years. They are still in good shape and are low enough to maintain good sightlines to our beautiful ocean. It also does not limit access to and from the beach as a higher boardwalk would.

But what good is a low, attractive, multi-use boardwalk if it leaves our shorefront community unprotected from serious storms? Breakwalk solves this problem with its second innovation; the concrete half of the Breakwalk that faces the ocean can be raised to an angle of 80 degrees when storm surges are expected. This functionality adds 10 to 12 feet of additional height to the breakwalk’s deck.

The “break” is raised and lowered into place by strong mechanical linkages. They are actuated by rolling “power carts” that roll down the stationary wooden half of the breakwalk prior to an approaching storm. Stopping every 40 feet, a special key is lowered into each section’s gearbox and in less than two minutes the seaward section of the breakwalk is raised into position.

When fully deployed, the forward (bottom) edge of the break is braced against a low, concrete retaining wall in front of the concrete piers that run the length of the breakwalk. Once the storm threat has passed, the “break” is lowered back to its normal position.

Breakwalks by themselves will not keep the community dry, but they serve a purpose by taking much of the energy out of future storm surges. Can it be built strong enough to withstand an angry ocean? Yes. Are there mechanical linkages that will operate reliably in a corrosive environment? Yes. Can the system be built to be cost effective? Yes.

I am doing a preliminary analysis on the design details and implementation costs and would be happy to share it with anyone who is interested as soon as it is complete.

The illustrations attempt to show the major components of the Breakwalk system. For additional information and a show-and-tell video, just search on “Breakwalk” and click on the Breakwalk Facebook page. Please feel free to share your comments or suggestions for improvement.


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