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Town officials to discuss beaches in special meeting

Southold town officials will convene for a special meeting to discuss crowded beaches and enforcement next week.

The topic arose during a work session Tuesday, following weeks of complaints about beach parking, crowding and litter.

“We’ve got a problem now. We’ve got to hurry up,” Supervisor Scott Russell said during the work session.

Though Councilwoman Sarah Nappa pointed to a “very contentious” relationship between residents who live near Goldsmith’s Inlet and beachgoers, officials quickly pointed out that the issue spans all beaches and road-ends across the North Fork.

Last month, outrage over crowding and garbage at Cedar Beach County Park prompted county officials to hire a beach attendant, however town officials say the crowds have shifted to other beaches in town.

Mr. Russell said the town hired six traffic control officers earlier than usual to help disperse crowds and check for permits. “But I wish we could literally hire another 30 people,” he said, to help with enforcement.

Bay constables and police officers have also been responding to these complaints. Police records from last week show that officers responded to at least a half-dozen calls at local beaches, which had to do with crowds of fishermen, illegally parked vehicles, littering and bonfires. In one incident from Sunday, an officer reported clearing the beach at Orient Point County Park of approximately 40 fishermen, “all who were not Suffolk County residents,” he noted in the report.

Mr. Russell believes that in addition to a vehicle permit process, the town should consider issuing “walk-in” permits that would limit all access to town residents only.

“We have a lot of beach use by people who don’t have permits and wouldn’t be qualified for them,” the supervisor said, noting that people often park beyond the permit boundaries and walk. “Also we have a new trend of people dropping off a lot of people at beaches, taking their car, parking it somewhere and then taking Uber to the beach to meet up with their group,” he said, adding that this has been a recurring problem that’s reached “crisis” level this year.

 With enforcement a key component to managing beaches, officials may also consider hiring additional beach attendants. Out of the town’s six beaches that have lifeguards, only three are accompanied by beach attendants, according to Councilwoman Jill Doherty. “We might need to up that,” she said.

The board also plans to discuss state guidelines with regard to beach capacity and sterilization of facilities, including playgrounds.

Mr. Russell said the guidelines call for frequent cleanings and sterilization and doesn’t believe the town has enough staff in the Department of Public Works to keep up. “There’s new challenges and we had a [DPW department] that was stretched prior to the challenges,” he said.

State guidelines also call for reducing beach capacity by half, which the supervisor said is “unworkable” in Southold, where there may only be 30 parking spaces at a beach.

“It’s easy if you’re Jones Beach, you cut parking in half, you cut the attendance in half because no one’s walking to Jones Beach,” he said. “Here, there’s no formula, there’s no metric to govern that.”  

Officials are hoping that beach facilities are fully staffed and operational by July 4.

The special meeting will be held Tuesday, June 23 at 11 a.m.