Southold’s beaches have been inundated by visitors, campers and fishermen this summer, and nowhere has the North Fork’s surge in popularity been more strongly felt than in New Suffolk, a tiny hamlet of less than 350 residents that also boasts Southold Town’s best public beach and boat ramp.
After hearing complaints about the state of the beaches and boat ramps from numerous members of the community earlier in July, the Southold Town Board hashed out several potential solutions to the crowding at a special meeting July 12.
Board members agreed to stop issuing single day parking passes at New Suffolk Beach, while Police Chief Marty Flatley agreed to temporarily post a traffic control officer at that beach before the parking attendants arrive at 10:45 a.m. on Fridays and weekends, after numerous complaints that the parking lot is already filled with people without beach stickers when the parking attendants arrive in the morning.
Part of the problem, said New Suffolk residents who filled the meeting room, is that Southold’s beach stickers are supposed to be placed on the front bumper of vehicles, which align perfectly with the wooden fence dividers in the New Suffolk Beach parking lot.
“These guys are a bunch of comedians. They pull up right against the guard rail, so a TCO has to crawl between the cars to see if it has a sticker,” said Joe Polashock, who lives across Jackson Street from the beach.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell also said he will speak with the town’s justice court about no longer allowing plea bargains for people who receive parking tickets for parking without a beach sticker.
People who live near beaches have also seen a dramatic increase in the amount of garbage that ends up on the beach or on the ground next to trash containers, along with dog poop, dirty diapers and empty water bottles. On the Long Island Sound beaches, police have also spent a great deal of time this summer keeping people from camping on the beaches overnight.
Southold Director of Public Works Jeff Standish said his department is already picking up trash from beaches five days a week in the summer.
“Bailie Beach is the biggest mess of all messes,” he said of the soundfront Mattituck beach.
“We thought the (trash) barrels were a magnet for garbage, so we did an experiment and didn’t put barrels out, and people left garbage there anyway,” said Mr. Russell.
Mr. Standish added that people also leave garbage near PVC fishing line collection containers put out by environmental groups for fishermen, as well as in the collectors themselves.
“There’s never fishing line in there — they’re filled with water bottles, diapers,” said Mr. Standish.
Board members are also considering closing beach parking lots between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., although people are still allowed to use the beaches late at night. Mr. Russell suggested issuing night fishing permits only to Southold Town residents, since many people who camp on beaches are fishermen from out of town.
Councilman Bob Ghosio said beaches are often closed to visitors in other parts of the country where he goes fishing.
“They have lift gates and booths. I’ve been turned away,” he said. “At Smith’s Point, I’ve been turned away when it’s overcrowded. I don’t know if we’re at that point, but it would seem to me a simple idea. Open when you want to open it. Close it when you want to close it.”
New Suffolk residents said that people often park all over New Suffolk, in areas where they don’t need permits, and then walk to the beach. While the bathing beach has a maximum occupancy of 75, that occupancy is just for the area between the buoys of the lifeguard area, where its rarely exceeded, said Recreation Department Supervisor Janet Douglass.
The New Suffolk Beach has by far the smallest parking lot of all of Southold Town’s beaches, with spaces for about three dozen cars.
“If the parking lot is full, the attendant has to say ‘we’re full,'” said Ms. Doherty. “The only one that has a problem is New Suffolk Beach.”
Ms. Doherty, who lives in New Suffolk, volunteered to look into requiring permits to use the town’s boat ramps. She said she often sees trucks from commercial boatyards from up the island using the town-owned ramp to put boats far larger than the ramp was intended for into the water.
The problem has only worsened this year, since Riverhead Town recently began charging to use its boat ramps.
Ms. Doherty suggested a resident permit fee of $15 to use the boat ramp, and a commercial permit fee of $250 to $300 for businesses in Southold.
Mr. Russell agreed that people should pay to use the ramps, which require a significant amount of upkeep, and pointed out that commercial baymen who use the ramps, many of whom work on small boats, would be eligible for the residential permit, while boatyard haulers would not.
Currently, Southold officially has 11 boat ramps, though many are just road ends where boats can be launched. The one in New Suffolk and the one at Klipp Park in Greenport are the most suitable for larger boats.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation currently operates two boat ramps that access the Long Island Sound, but a proposed DEC ramp on the Peconic Bay at the former Old Barge in Southold isn’t due for construction until later this year, when town board members hope it will take some pressure off the ramp in New Suffolk.
Town Board members agreed to have another special meeting to address issues at beaches throughout the town, including at park districts, and Mr. Russell said he’d look into hiring more staff for enforcement next year as he prepares his 2018 budget, which is due in September.
“We’re not going to solve all the problems, but we’re going to make things better,” he said.