Before the Town of East Hampton goes about opening any new public bathing beaches, it needs to demonstrate that it can adequately police and keep clean those it already has.
Several town board members are now considering how to provide public parking and access to a 38-acre oceanfront parcel on Napeague — something that neighbors of the parcel, as well as the State of New York, have objected to. Meanwhile, the board has talked about buying land along Cranberry Hole Road in Amagansett, with one parcel providing a path to Gardiner’s Bay and the other intended for vehicles. Residents there, too, have expressed concern about the idea.
The pressure on the board to provide more ocean beaches comes for the most part from difficult weekend parking at Indian Wells, Atlantic Avenue, Napeague Lane, Ditch Plain in Montauk, and Beach Lane and Town Line Road in Wainscott. As we have observed before, finding a parking spot after 11 on a sunny Saturday morning in some places is nigh onto impossible. Perhaps as a result of the chronic shortage, some owners of four-wheel-drive vehicles head out on the sand at Beach Hampton to the irritation of some property owners there. A couple of lawsuits have been the response, with Town Hall and the town trustees fending them off in State Supreme Court.
An alternative might be for the town to follow East Hampton Village’s lead and cap the number of nonresident parking stickers it sells every year and, in addition, require resident permits to be renewed annually. These measures would cut down the number of vehicles, easing the pressure somewhat.
As much as we all tout the town’s beautiful beaches, however, conditions at them are far from ideal. Burned remains of beach fires too close to lifeguard stands remain the morning after. Public toilets are too few or inadequate and often downright disgusting. Garbage is left too long at overflowing bins, tempting vermin. Broken, unsightly fences have caused complaints at the Wainscott shore.
Given these circumstances, the people along Dolphin Drive on Napeague are only being realistic in fearing the worst. Until the Town of East Hampton shows a sustained commitment to maintaining its beaches in the best possible condition, it cannot be expected to handle any more in a responsible way.