Park district commissioners call for all-hands meeting

Orient-East Marion Park District Commissioner Adam Irving and Mattituck Park District Commissioner Kevin Byrne were part of a joint mid-June meeting at Southold Town Hall to address the ongoing misuse of area beaches by nonresidents and agreed that not enough hands were on deck. They are now calling for an all-hands public follow-up meeting that includes commissioners from all town park districts, town Police Chief Martin Flatley and Southold bay constables to establish an action plan for this well-known problem.

The usual concerns were brought up at the last meeting. Illegal fires and camping, littering, excessive noise, fishing violations, destruction of protective shorebird fencing, trespassing — and even public defecation on private land and in parking lots — were discussed with powerful parties, including a representative from state Sen. Anthony Palumbo’s office, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and several representatives from the DEC. According to the park district commissioners, the meeting was missing local law enforcement. 

In an interview with The Suffolk Times, Mr. Byrne said, “This issue is all over the North Fork; it’s not limited to us.” In his district, he said, Breakwater and Bailie Beach parks are particularly inundated every weekend during the summer, regardless of the remediation efforts already made. Mr. Byrne said nonresidents have been parking on the 125 feet of property before the access gate, which had to be moved to the property edge so no one could park there. Now, he says, residents down the road are complaining that nonresident vehicles are parked in front of their houses, which is not park district property and falls under the town police department’s jurisdiction— a good example of why law enforcement is needed at the next meeting.

Other measures taken by the Mattituck Park District have been increased signage, updated policies on access gate closing, a new dumpster and trash containers and more frequent trash removal. Security personnel were also hired to patrol the property and attempt to enforce access and use regulations.

In an email to a resident concerned about excess litter she encountered on her morning run, Mr. Byrne explained the complexity of enforcement in the area. “There are multiple government agencies responsible for the surrounding properties. Portions of the land along the inlet belong to the Town of Southold, New York State and the federal government,” Mr. Byrne wrote.

A recently implemented resident fishing permit policy was intended to allow the security team to limit access to the small portion of the jetty on Mattituck Park District property, however they can’t do anything about the rest of it.

According to Mr. Irving, the follow-up meeting would bring all the park districts together with local law enforcement and establish communication among them to actually resolve the issues. As a resident, he said, he spends time cleaning the beaches, adding that seeing all the litter nonresidents leave behind is “frustrating” and “makes a mockery” of his efforts. 

Mr. Irving said, “Nobody likes calling the police. It’s uncomfortable.” He says that many of his neighbors are reluctant to do it, and he used to be as well, but he now encourages them to join him. He doesn’t want to drain local resources, but said the ongoing situation is only escalating, and more residents calling with complaints could garner a quicker response.

Mr. Irving and Mr. Byrne hope the follow-up meeting will be scheduled soon so they, as volunteer park district commissioners, can establish open communication among all districts and with local law enforcement to nail down action plans.