That the East Hampton Town Trustees should have to contemplate new, stricter limits on the commercial use of the town’s beaches is a sign that our values have changed. Their review is overdue.
Once upon a time the idea of for-profit enterprises — other than commercial fishermen — using the shore would have been unthinkable. The beach was a sacred place, for sunbathing, walking, swimming, casting a line. Now, the pressure on the beaches is relentless all summer, with yoga classes, camp outings, pay-to-play volleyball, and sprawling, catered weddings from dune to tide. Solitude, it seems, is a thing of the past.
Not so, the trustees appear to be ready to admit — and rightly so. In an ongoing discussion, these elected officials, the ones most responsible for almost all the beaches, are considering re-evaluating just how and when and by whom the strand can be used. A case in point is a decision by the East Hampton Town Board to allow season-long surfing lessons for up to 15 students at a time at Beach Lane, Wainscott, Napeague Lane, Amagansett, and Ditch Plain, Montauk.
Just how town law was allowed to drift to give the town board partial jurisdiction over the trustees’ beaches, we don’t exactly remember, but the members of the town board have handled permits of the sort given for the surf lessons. The trustees should gain veto power, but doing so when the town board has already given a go-ahead would put them in an awkward position. More to our thinking, the trustees should retake control of the beaches they own on the public’s behalf. The town board has, by the surf-lesson matter, shown itself to be an inadequate steward.
As the summer population has continued to swell, it is time to give the use of our beloved beaches a comprehensive once-over. They should not become de facto business locations. It is up to the trustees now to draw a proverbial line in the sand.