A photograph sent by a friend said it all. Visitors to Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett about an hour before sunset Saturday would have been treated to a mountain of garbage overflowing the metal bins and left haphazardly at the head of the parking lot. Looking closely at the photo, the preponderance of beer cans and empty cartons is apparent — most are Coors or Bud Light, which for some reason is the beverage of choice for the Indian Wells groups. A couple sits on a bench, taking in the evening air, just a few feet from the groaning bins.
Now nearly 12 months after officials were told about the beach’s newfound popularity among crowds of young adults — and after the town board approved clunky new rules about vehicular access to the beach — it appears much more must be done to preserve Indian Wells as most beachgoers would like it to be. The litter is not limited to Indian Wells, and it is not new; Ditch Plain in Montauk’s trash bins can reach dizzying heights, and there even have been complaints at town board meetings about road ends at Napeague Harbor, Kirk Park in Montauk, and other less-crowded locations.
Town officials seem indisposed toward the most obvious solution to reducing the weekend daytime party at Indian Wells — a ban on alcoholic drinks at beaches when lifeguards are present. East Hampton Village, it is worth noting, prohibits alcohol at all its beaches. So if officials are not going to clamp down — and beachgoers with certain, self-entitled attitudes are never going to haul away their own trash — it becomes Town Hall’s responsibility to make sure the beaches and parking lots are kept acceptably clean, if not pristine, at least during daylight hours. One might wish for more responsible behavior, but when faced with a bag of stinking trash, especially on a hot day, most people are going to put it down as quickly as possible, even if it means leaving it for someone else to deal with.
According to the town’s Web site, the Department of Building and Grounds has “at least” two crews working full-time in season picking up garbage from bins at the beaches and on the streets. The department also handles maintenance of all town buildings, grounds, cemeteries, harbors and docks, and other public properties. It is a huge to-do list, including 24 restrooms among 60 buildings. Although its $2.5-million budget has increased somewhat in recent years, clearly it is not enough.
Much more must be done to make Indian Wells and all the other public spaces in the Town of East Hampton inviting and welcoming — even for those who go to the beach after the crowds have gone home.