One thing seems impossible in East Hampton Town — an even-handed and calm discussion of any aspect of trucks on the beaches. We were reminded of this last week when a reasonable question came up about whether the Three Mile Harbor side of Maidstone Park was a suitable place for drivers of four-wheel-drive vehicles to set up camp during daytime hours.
Time was, you might see one or two trucks on the sand there, just south of the stone breakwater. Nowadays, maybe a dozen line the shore on a hot weekend afternoon. These are not vehicles used by anglers; they belong to beachgoers who don’t want to carry umbrellas and chairs down the sand or just like to sit by their trucks, where access to beach toys for the kids and refreshments is easy and at hand.
Because of the traffic, the beach has become so pounded down that four-wheel drive is now barely necessary there. Let’s face it, the line of vehicles is unpleasant to the eye, inappropriate in a natural area, and the trucks take up an unfair amount of the limited space, blocking in some cases the time-honored free passage along the strand afforded town residents in the Dongan Patent of 1686.
A reasonable answer might be to ask that able-bodied people park on the pavement and reserve the daytime right to drive on this particular beach for those with physical handicaps. Do not expect any proposal of this kind to lead to a rational conversation about the appropriate time and place for four-wheeling, however. Instead, any voices of compromise would be quickly drowned out by cries that limits of any kind would be a slippery slope to a total ban. Hogwash.
At its best, government is supposed to be about making difficult choices. It will be regrettable if the noise about beach driving prevents a much-needed conversation from taking place at all.