A day at the beach on the East End may sound like the perfect antidote for a sweltering afternoon in a city recovering from a global pandemic, but East End towns are planning to make  one thing clear this spring: That’s not likely in the cards.

Southold Town announced April 27 that, effective immediately, swimming will be prohibited at town beaches until further notice. Southold also announced that congregating on beaches is prohibited and that parking at town beaches and road ends will be limited to vehicles with town resident parking permits only. 

“With warmer weather coming, we want to ensure that our beaches are enjoyed by the public in a safe manner that encourages social distancing,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell as he announced the restrictions.

East Hampton Town began enforcing summer beach parking regulations on Friday, April 24, and immediately suspended sale of non-resident parking, beach driving and launch ramp permits to “ensure compliance with safeguards against the spread of Covid-19,” according to that town. 

This move comes after parks in Montauk saw a massive influx of visitors in mid-April, causing New York State to send out more state police to enforce regulations at state parks.

East Hampton Town later reported it had issued 177 tickets for parking violations on Saturday, April 25 and has authorized police overtime that will enable four additional police officers and two additional Marine Patrol officers to be assigned on both Saturdays and Sundays.

“With over 70 miles of coastline, and as a traditional destination for visitors who enjoy our beaches and open space, East Hampton has a particular challenge ahead,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “One thing is sure: this summer will be different than others as we must remain vigilant against the coronavirus. Beach closures or other limits may be necessary.”

East Hampton Town closed the unrestricted section of the Kirk Park parking lot in Montauk, limiting parking there to residents only, and restricted parking in areas of Montauk adjacent to beach or park accesses.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has convened a countywide working group to develop regional guidelines for the safety of outdoor recreational facilities this summer. 

The group of town supervisors, village mayors, and county and state officials will develop recommendations for safety and social distancing as the area recovers from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr. Bellone’s announcement came just after New York Governor Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers will again be allowed to open for personal use in all three states as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed.

“Aligning our polices in this area is another example of that strong partnership, and will help ensure there is no confusion or ‘state shopping’ when it comes to marinas and boatyards,” said Mr. Cuomo.

“I know this is an unprecedented situation. I know how challenging it is for many people, especially as summer approaches and there is a strong desire to get back to some semblance of normalcy,” said Mr. Bellone. “We will be transitioning into something different, a new normal, a different kind of environment, with different rules.”

“There’s no question we’re a summer community, a beach community,” he added. “That’s part of who we are. It’s part of our quality of life. We know as we get closer to summertime there will be a natural urge to move beyond this really terrible experience that we’ve been through. That makes it even more important that we are as clear and coordinated as we can be.”

Mr. Russell, the Southold supervisor, said he felt the changes were necessary because New York State has already prohibited swimming and reduced parking at state beaches and parks. Southold Town beaches will be monitored by traffic control officers, who will enforce the resident parking permit only requirement.

Southold resident parking permits that expired on December 31, 2019 will be valid until June 15.

Residents can apply for permits online or by mail through the Southold Town Clerk’s Office.  For any questions, call the Clerk’s Office at 631.765.1800.

Mr. Russell added that the drive-through at the Southold Town Annex at 54375 Route 25 in Southold (the former Capital One Bank) will soon be opened so people can apply in person. The date of the opening will be announced shortly.

On Sunday, May 2, The Suffolk County Supervisors Association announced it had formed a joint planning effort with the three Nassau County town supervisors to “explore areas of possible coordination of summer programs and facilities across all 13 Towns, officially known
as the Nassau/Suffolk Joint Summer Operations Task Force” to coordinate guidance on opening of facilities, public health messaging and policies for beaches, parks and playgrounds.

“The supervisors announced a goal date of May 18 to issue the joint guidelines that are agreed upon by all of the towns,” according to the May 2 announcement. “This will enable the group to take into consideration the very latest research on outdoor virus transmission, and still allow for proper planning and staffing before the start of the summer season.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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