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Southold Town addresses beach concerns

Following numerous complaints from residents, especially those in New Suffolk, the Southold Town Board has enacted a few immediate changes to address problems at Southold’s beaches.

First, non-resident day passes will no longer be sold at New Suffolk Beach. Additionally, day passes sold at Town Beach and Norman E. Klipp Park, also known as Gull Pond Beach, have to be marked with what beach they were purchased at and can only be used at that location, supervisor Scott Russell said at a special board meeting Wednesday to address beach issues.

“My point is that even the beaches, if we’re issuing non-resident passes at the expense of the residents, it’s time to rethink that,” Councilman William Ruland said. “What we’re living in now is different that 10 years ago and it’s not going to get any better. It’s only going to be more pressure.”

Second, Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said the police department will step up patrols at area beaches.

This includes assigning a Traffic Control Officer to New Suffolk beach in the morning to deter people from illegally parking in the lot before beach attendants begin their shifts. A test run of this idea, which was suggested by Councilman Jim Dinizio, will occur this weekend.

Chief Flatley said on average, the department issues between 100 and 120 tickets at Town beaches on any given weekend.

He noted that with many events in the town, such as the Strawberry Festival and the lavender farm bloom, there wasn’t enough staff available to consistently monitor the town’s 59 beaches that require permits. He said enforcement will be stronger going forward this summer as many of the larger events and festivals have passed.

The town will also better enforce the minimum fine for illegal parking at beaches, which is $75. Lastly, it will provide a sign for beach attendants to display when the New Suffolk Beach parking lot is full.

“It’s obvious, to Councilwoman [Jill] Dougherty’s comments in the past, that the word has gone far and wide of where you can go and basically, ‘well you might get a ticket,’ ” Mr. Ruland said. “At what price are people willing to pay for a day at the beach? We’ve seen in other areas, the town attorney has shown us, people are willing to pay a huge sum of money to do something grossly illegal because it’s the cost of doing business. And I’m not sure that we can look the other way anymore with that.”

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Supervisor Russell asked the New Suffolk Civic Association to come up with a punch list of problems at New Suffolk Beach. Some, such as parking, more thorough enforcement and non-resident permits, were addressed Wednesday.

For others — such as converting the end of Main Street east of First Street into a parking area, moving the parking permit location to cars’ back windows, and commercial deliveries accessing delivery locations via Main Street — an immediate solution wasn’t decided on.

The town board also discussed numerous other issues that arise at the beaches over the summer, including increasing beach staffing, access to town ramps, garbage left on the beaches, people who park on residential roads to access the water, non-residents who participate in night fishing without passes, and more.

Another meeting will be scheduled to try to solve those problems.

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Photo: Southold Town Board at the special meeting Wednesday afternoon. (Credit: Nicole Smith)