The Southold Town Board met with Jack and Maggie Biggane, of Mollie’s Fund, about the possibility of installing sunscreen dispensers at five town parks and beaches.
Residents speaking at Tuesday’s Southold Town Board meeting expressed concern about laws related to dogs on beaches, reviving a topic that dominated town meetings in 2013. READ
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.
The bathrooms at Southold Town’s beaches hadn’t been opened last month and beachgoers desperate for a bathroom break had been taking some extreme measures, Councilwoman Jill Doherty said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.
Southold Town officials said Tuesday they believe a compromise has been reached on the long awaited leash law.
During its regular session Tuesday, board members set a second public hearing to discuss the proposal for July 30 at 7:30 p.m. The proposed law now includes suggestions made from the public during previous town meetings, officials said.
The current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. If the proposal becomes law, dogs will be banned from town-owned beaches between May 1 to October 1 from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogs will be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season, according to the proposal.
The new policy will still restrict dogs and other domestic animals from recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields. While “no dogs are allowed” signs will remain in those areas, exemptions will be made for hunting and service dogs, officials said.
Once the new policy is in place, the board will work with its police department and bay constables to develop methods of enforcing the code, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.
While Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, Southold Town beaches will not be in tip-top shape until the season’s official start on June 22, according to deputy director of public works Jeff Standish.
Town maintenance crews have worked for several months to clear debris left behind by superstorm Sandy and a series of winter storms that battered the North Fork this past year. Although hazardous debris has been removed from the shore, “it’s not pristine,” Mr. Standish said.
Dramatic erosion remains an issue for the town’s Sound and bay beaches, he said.
In January, the U.S. Senate approved roughly $5 billion in federal aid to help mitigate the damage. In Southold, much of the funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency was allocated to cleaning up and filling in portions of lost beach with sand, Mr. Standish said. However, restrictions imposed by the state Department of Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers have made it more difficult to obtain permits for traditional beach restoration techniques, such as dredging, he said.
Bay beaches were hit particularly hard by Sandy’s storm surge, according to town engineer Jamie Richter.
The beach at Greenport’s Norman Klipp Park, better known as Gull Pond, extended out only 10 feet following the storm. But even six months later, Mr. Standish estimates only 30 feet of shoreline remains during high tide.
“There’s not much of a beach,” he said.
In the short term the town is focused on preserving what’s left of the shoreline.
“My objective is getting the beaches up and running with the little resources we have,” Mr. Standish said.
In the future, Mr. Standish hopes to move the guardrail at Klipp Park back to widen the beach. The town is actively working with FEMA to obtain additional federal aid to offset costs of that and similar projects, according to officials.
“We are not going to dump money into that project until we hear back from FEMA,” Mr. Standish said, adding that he hopes the project can be completed before the fall. At the moment the town is not looking to develop long-term solutions to the continuing problem of shoreline erosion.
“Living on the water you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” town Trustee David Bergen said. “All we can do is come up with projects to help prevent erosion.”
The town is working on a coastal erosion plan that would address factors such as rising sea levels and the current infrastructure’s effectiveness in protecting the coastline, said Supervisor Scott Russell.
The very contentious and continuing dispute over how or whether Southold Town should regulate dogs running free at town beaches and parks will pick up again tonight.
Residents are being asked to weight in on a code revision that would prohibit dogs and other domestic animals in recreation areas, picnic spots, children’s play areas and athletic fields where signs are posted saying no dogs are allowed. In addition, no dogs would be allowed on bathing beaches while lifeguards are on duty and within 50 feet of areas posted for piping plover and other endangered species. Exemptions would also be made for hunting dogs.
In all other areas, including beaches, owners would be required to keep their dogs leashed. The proposal has provoked backlash from pet owners and others who view dogs as a vital part of the community.
Last month the Town Board tabled the most recent rule change and will hold a new, less formal public forum on the topic at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Check back at suffolktimes.com for a live blog from the forum.