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County adds security at Cedar Beach, where residents vow to monitor progress after years of overcrowding, litter

Residents in the Main Bayview area of Southold are getting their beach back and about a dozen of them showed up at a press conference Saturday to tell public officials they hope it stays that way.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski was joined by county parks staff and representatives of Southold Town, including Supervisor Scott Russell, to announce that new signage, gate policies and contracted security guards will help control issues of out-of-town residents crowding the beach and leaving their waste behind.

“This is a community and everyone has got to work together on this issue and on this problem,” Mr. Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said at Saturday’s press conference, which was held at the entrance to the park, where non-residents could be spotted getting turned away by representatives of PSA, a private security company hired by the county to monitor entrance into the park. “When people come here and they leave their garbage and they use the beach as a bathroom … this is really so unacceptable. This kind of effort is a response to that.”

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said on a typical day up to 200 non-residents crowd the beach, some even setting up camp overnight. Mr. Flatley said it’s non uncommon for the town to issue 50 to 75 tickets per weekend for fishing violations and for non-residents using the park.

“I think what’s taking place today is going to go a long way toward securing this spot,” he said.

While Mr. Krupski said the issue would be dealt with even if there was no COVID-19 pandemic, he acknowledged that concerns of a possible further outbreak make the situation particularly dire.

“If people come down here and they act irresponsibly and they infect each other and our infection rates go higher and our hospitalizations raise they’re going to affect our region even more because it’s going to be harder for our businesses to reopen,” the legislator said.

County officials said the park will now be locked at sundown each day and that a guard will be present at the a booth at the entrance checking to make sure guests are Suffolk residents. New signs warn visitors of those new rules.

The county’s announcement comes just days after news reports about crowding issues at the beach, where residents reported illegal food truck and kayak rental operations and instances of visitors defecating in different corners of the park.

Chris Pickerell of Cornell Cooperative Extension, which manages a research center at the park, said he has seen the problem develop at the park over the years and thanked the county for taking action.

A group of local residents said Saturday that they are in the early stages of forming a group to monitor progress at the park.

Jim Groeneveld of Southold said he stopped visiting Cedar Beach, where he used to go for runs, because of the littering issues. A 13-year resident of the community, Mr. Groenveld said he believes the problems at the park have been a problem for about a decade.

Mr. Groenveld and neighbors expressed their displeasure with past management of the park at Saturday’s press conference. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Mr. Russell promised to organize a group of stakeholders to clean the park. Residents said many of them have been doing that, but the issue of human waste persists. They asked that someone from the town or county clean it.

“Every year when an osprey comes to that nest, I love seeing them,” Mr. Groenveld told the county officials, pointing to a nest near the beach. “But I gotta see a woman squatting and defecating right there. You should know that, because there’s toilet paper right there, just white roll after white roll after white roll.”

The residents said that while they appreciate action being taken to control crowding at the park, they made several more requests. One was to add signage about the prohibition of alcohol and a phone number residents can call if problems continue. Mr. Krupski said those recommendations would be taken into consideration.

“We want the residents to be a partner in this,” he said.

Mr. Groenveld also asked if the town and county — which have each preserved certain portions of the property, though the beach is a county park — would consider transferring land so it’s under just one jurisdiction. Mr. Russell explained the complications with transfers between municipalities, including the need for a public referendum.

“I have full faith in Suffolk County’s ability to manage this space and this facility, which is a critical educational and research facility,” the supervisor said. “It’s best left in their hands — Cornell Cooperative and others. With the attention this has gotten and with the solutions that are in place now, I think you are going to see a huge improvement.”