If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then New Jersey's boardwalks have been overwhelmed with compliments.

Theme parks around the globe have adopted the boardwalk concept in one form or another, hoping visitors will equate them with the sunshine and good times so synonymous with a visit to the seaside originals.

Jack Morey, vice president of Morey's Piers, probably has visited most of them.

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"They are usually pretty," Morey said of the parks that have tried to re-create the boardwalk experience, "but not remotely close to the energy and sensory overload of the real thing."

It is hard to duplicate an original anything, but places such as Walt Disney World and Dorney Park have borrowed the boardwalk idea, at least in part.

Just two years ago, for instance, Hershey Park launched its version, called the Boardwalk at Hershey Park, marking the 100th anniversary of the theme park opened by Milton S. Hershey.

Public relations manager Kathy Burrows said visitors often asked the company to add more water attractions and more roller coasters.

Naming vacation places with Caribbean themes was popular at the time, Burrows said, but "the Caribbean

didn't hold any special meaning for our guests."

Hershey Park, instead, drew inspiration from the New Jersey shore.

"Their vacations as children were spent on the boardwalks in the northeast," Burrows said of the decision to borrow from the boards. "It is a tribute to four specific areas - Coney Island; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Ocean City, Maryland; and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware."

The park even makes use of the names of coastal features, including a 378,000-gallon wave pool named "The Shore" and a lazy river attraction dubbed the "Intercoastal Waterway."

Of course, there are big differences. The Boardwalk at Hershey Park, for instance, is not made of wood.

"It looks like a boardwalk, but it's actually stamped concrete," Burrows said, adding that there is no sand either - largely because of the maintenance required, given the park's water filtration systems. "You have the beauty of the boardwalk, and you don't have sand in your bathing suit."

E-mail Trudi Gilfillian:

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